Florida electricity retailer faces $250K penalty for failing to meet R.I. renewable energy requirements

PROVIDENCE – Declaring bankruptcy does not exempt an electricity company from facing penalties for failing to meet Rhode Island’s renewable energy requirements, state utility regulators said on Friday.

The R.I. Public Utilities Commission voted 3-0 to force Florida-based Liberty Power Holdings LLC to give up the $250,000 bond – which had already been posted – for not buying the mandated amount of renewable energy credits.

The state under its Renewable Energy Standard requires all energy carriers to buy a certain amount of renewable energy credits, or certificates, each year or else pay into a fund run by R.I. Commerce Corp. In 2020, Liberty Power Holdings was supposed to have bought more than 11,000 renewable energy certificates – each equivalent to 1 megawatt-hour of clean energy – or pay $808,000, according to filings with the PUC. The company had until June 2021 to submit records to the commission proving it met the requirement but such proof was never received, according to filings.

When questioned by state regulators, Liberty Power tried to beg off meeting the mandate because it had filed for bankruptcy, according to a Sept. 14 letter from an attorney for the company. The Florida-based electricity provider file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2021, which it said was due to the rate hikes stemming from the historic winter storm in Texas, one of 14 states where it operates.

- Advertisement -

Rhode Island regulators appealed to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the South District of Florida to let them recoup payments or other penalties despite Liberty’s bankruptcy status. On Feb. 3, the bankruptcy court judge granted the R.I. Public Utilities Commission the right to recoup the $250,000 bond Liberty had posted, though the ruling does not let the state impose any other penalties such as collecting the $808,000 payment in lieu of the energy credits.

Earlier this week, the PUC issued a warning to Liberty Power, giving the company one last chance to meet with the requirements by 4 p.m. Thursday or else give up the bond. As of Friday morning, the company had not complied, according to Commission Chairman Ronald Gerwatowski.

Liberty Power did not immediately respond to inquiries for comment Friday afternoon. In a prior letter to the commission, Liberty Power said it intended to “wind up” its business in Rhode Island by the end of 2021, but it was unclear whether that happened, or how many Rhode Island customers bought electricity from Liberty Power previously.

The company was still advertising quotes for Rhode Island rates on its website as of Friday.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.