Plotting the Public Service Commission Blockbuster
Consistency Is the Winning Formula
Summer is the time for blockbusters. How about this one: A mega utility holding company is trying to manipulate energy markets by creating artificial power shortages in a densely populated state. Everything goes horribly wrong: fracking-induced earthquakes lead to blackouts, a contaminated water supply, and a nuclear reactor meltdown. Zombies roam the landscape clutching their dead smartphones. Okay, it’s probably not the best movie premise, but effectively regulating public utilities can be a blockbuster challenge.
Ensuring Reliable Service at a Fair Price
When they emerged in the late 1800s, public service commissions (PSCs), or public utilities commissions (PUCs), had a straightforward mission: to ensure citizens received reliable electrical service at a fair price. Today, however, in addition to coal, oil, and natural gas, their jurisdiction may include solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass energy, as well as water, telecommunications, and transportation.
Balancing the interests of the companies they regulate and consumers requires a quasi-judicial, quasi-legislative framework. PSCs have fuller dockets and more complex authority than ever, requiring teams of lawyers, scientists, engineers, and financial analysts to unpack each issue. Regulated companies must obtain approval for every major operating decision they make. In addition to reviewing rate cases, PSCs must conduct proceedings and investigations related to grid modernization, renewable energy, and incentive structures. With the advent of distributed energy resources and technology, officials are having to rethink standard approaches to regulating so-called natural monopolies and consider how best to integrate decentralized producers into the grid. Finally, they must publish impact analyses related to various initiatives as directed by state and federal legislation.
Order and Transparency
PSCs perform a wide range of activities to regulate a broad range of entities, each with its own autonomous division. Oftentimes, these divisions have implemented their own “similar but different” information systems designed for their specific needs. This usually leads to redundant data, reporting difficulties, and process control issues. Bringing operational consistency to such agencies can be a challenge — one that an enterprise case management system is well suited to address.
Most PSC activity begins with an online user filing an electronic document through a secure public portal. Once uploaded successfully, the file triggers a workflow based on the filing type selected (case, complaint, application, etc.) and the division responsible for initiating the process. This is important — although each division may appear to operate autonomously, most filings touch at least two divisions. Without an enterprise tracking system that shares data and communicates across divisions, inefficiency and delays are inevitable.
Each type of filing has a predefined lifecycle for how it is routed and processed through the agency. The system also creates cases, associates relevant information with each case, and helps generate required correspondence and forms.
Based on the high public interest in issues within their jurisdiction, PSCs must meet an especially high standard of transparency. Each party in a matter must be notified promptly of events, deadlines, and decisions. Interested parties should be able to view schedules of meetings and hearings online, as well as search dockets, submit public comments, and file complaints.
A Blockbuster of a Solution
All of this order and automation may not conjure up a great plot for a summer blockbuster. However, in the states that have implemented an enterprise case management system, it keeps things moving and keeps the public informed.
Do you have a blockbuster regulatory challenge? Contact us for a demo and see first-hand how an enterprise case management system can help you solve it.
Consumers rely on state public service commissions to ensure safe, reliable, and affordable service from providers of utilities and regulated essential services. From processing e-filings to managing agendas to automating votes to generating orders, MicroPact's Public Service Commission Oversight software solution enables state and local regulators to manage the entire PSC docket and PUC docket lifecycle consistently and efficiently.
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