Energy Whitepaper - Page 3

In re Complaint of Direct Energy Business , L . L . C . v . Duke Energy Ohio , Inc ., Slip Opinion No . 2020-Ohio-4429
In September 2020 , for example , a unanimous opinion of the Court authored by Chief Maureen Justice O ’ Connor held that the PUCO lacked the jurisdiction to adjudicate a complaint filed against Duke Energy Ohio , Inc . regarding Duke Energy ’ s role as a meter-data-management agent . The complaint at issue was filed by Direct Energy Business , L . L . C . Direct Energy buys electric-generation services from the operator of a wholesale-power market and resells the services to end-users . Duke Energy functioned as a meter-data-management agent for Direct Energy , providing data about the electricity usage of Direct ’ s customers to the operator of the wholesale market – data that the operator then used to invoice Direct for its purchases . In 2013 , however , a calculation error by Duke Energy resulted in Direct being overbilled by $ 2 million . So , Direct filed a complaint against Duke Energy in the PUCO , which addressed the complaint on the merits and concluded that Duke Energy ’ s failure to provide accurate usage data violated R . C . 4905.22 ’ s requirement that public utilities “ furnish … adequate service .”
Duke Energy appealed , arguing that the statutory duty of adequate service did not apply because it was not acting as a “ public utility ” when it rendered meter-data-management services to Direct . The Supreme Court agreed , honing in on the definition of “ electric light company ” in the Ohio Revised Code and concluding that Duke Energy simply did not meet it . According to statute , a company is an “ electric light company ” when it is “ engaged in the business of supplying electricity for light , heat , or power purposes to consumers within this state …” R . C . 4905.03 ( C ). But as the Court found , Duke was not supplying electricity to Direct , and Direct was not “ a ‘ consumer ’ of electricity supplied by Duke …” 2020-Ohio-4429 , ¶¶ 15-17 . Although the PUCO defended its exercise of jurisdiction by arguing that Direct had no choice but to accept Duke Energy as its meter-data-management agent , rendering Direct a “ captive customer ,” the Supreme Court held that “ the PUCO cannot circumvent the statutory definition by creating a status label that the General Assembly itself did not prescribe .” Id .¶ 19 .