Company fined $1 million by CT officials, license revoked

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The offices of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in New Britain, Conn., in September 2019.

The offices of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in New Britain, Conn., in September 2019.

Alexander Soule

State utility regulators have fined a Boston-based third-party electricity provider $1 million and revoked the company's license to do business in Connecticut.

The state's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority also required the Connecticut subsidiary of Sunwave Gas & Power to pay restitution to more than 1,000 customers, commissioners with the regulatory agency ruled last week. The ruling against Sunwave comes following an investigation into the company's business practices.

Investigators with PURA's Office of Education, Outreach, and Enforcement found Sunwave officials violated state rules and regulations by selling electricity in the Connecticut even though the company's membership in ISO-New England had been suspended in January. ISO-NE operates the region's electric grid and oversees the retail electric market.

At that time, the company owed $1.17 million to ISO-NE, officials with the grid operator said and had failed to respond to letters and phone calls from the grid operator.

At a June 8 PURA hearing, PURA's commissioners suspended Sunwave's license for five years because company officials demonstrated  "a lack of managerial capability." The company was also ordered to make restitution  to customers within 20 days.

But when Sunwave failed to make restitution to customers, PURA officials issued a second violation notice against the company that ultimately resulted  last week's action  by PURA. Sunwave appealed the decision by regulators, but that appeal was ultimately unsuccessful.

Laura Jurasek, who is in charge of regulatory compliance with Sunwave declined comment on PURA's decision on Thursday.  But in testimony filed with PURA in advance of Sunwave's appeal of the regulatory agency's second violation notice, Jurasek said the company "did not provide restitution to customers because it simply did not have the financial capability to do so.”

The company had been operating in Connecticut since 2014.

As a result of PURA's ruling,  customer of the company will be returned to the standard service offer in which The United Illuminating Co. and Eversource Energy purchase electricity for customers and then pass through the costs of that purchase without any mark up.

An example of the type of restitution former Sunwave residential customers will receive,individuals who had 10 months remaining on their contract at the time will receive $200 restitution. That number is based upon customers whose Sunwave rates were $20 per month less than the standard offer.

 All but $50,000 of the fine is to be made payable to Operation Fuel, a Hartford-based organization year-round emergency energy assistance in the state.

This is the second time in less than two months PURA has issued a seven-figure fine against against one of the utilities it regulates. Regulators fined against Frontier Communications $5 million in late July because one of its contractors was "jeopardizing public safety"  during underground installation of fiber optic cable that is being done as part of the company's expansion of that network.