HOW ELECTRIC INDUSTRY CHANGE WILL AFFECT YOU
This brief overview of the competitive electric industry in California is adapted from the California Public Utilities Commission Internet web site. For more information, see the CPUC Electric Restructuring page at ftp://ftp.cpuc.ca.gov/gopher-data/electric_restructuring/er_home_page.htm.
Goals of a competitive electric industry:
To improve customer choice and lower rates, the Legislature enacted, and Governor Wilson signed, Assembly Bill 1890 in September 1996 to make Californiaís electric industry competitive. The CPUC is implementing a four-year transition period to this new competitive market. As of March 31, 1998 investor-owned utility customers from all classes (residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial) are able to buy electricity from either their current utility or, through "direct access," from another electricity supplier. The industry will be fully competitive by 2002. (Municipal utilities are not required to offer direct access service as AB 1890 applies only to regulated investor-owned utilities. However, some municipal utilities, including the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD), voluntarily enacted policies allowing some or all to obtain service from other providers.)
PG&E, Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) customers as well as customers of Southern California Water Company Bear Valley District, Kirkwood Gas and Electric, and the California customers of Sierra Pacific Power and PacifiCorp are now able to buy electricity from their current utility or from a non-utility electric service provider. If you are a customer of one of these utilities (now known as utility distribution companies), whether you decide to continue buying electricity from your utility or choose to buy from another supplier, your utility will continue to transmit electricity to your home or business. But for the first time, you will be able to purchase that electricity through direct access from whatever company will give you the service options and/or prices you want. (The utilities are precluded from providing direct access service to retail customers outside their service territories until after the year 2002. After that, they will be able to participate in the direct access market just as other energy service providers can now.)
The California Public Utilities Commission, working closely with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, utilities and other entities, will assure continued delivery of safe, reliable, and environmentally-sensitive electric service. The CPUC also will ensure fair competition and that residential and small commercial customers are educated about the competitive electric industry and protected from unfair business practices.
MORE CUSTOMER CHOICE
LOWER ELECTRIC RATES
The electric rates of PG&E, SCE, SDG&E, PacifiCorp and Sierra Pacific Power are frozen at the rates in effect on June 10, 1996. By law, these utilities were also required to reduce residential and small commercial electric rates by 10 percent on January 1, 1998.
PG&E, Edison and SDG&E are purchasing electricity from a competitive spot market called the Power Exchange. The Power Exchange determines the price of electricity hourly according to demand for and supply of electricity. It publishes the price of electricity so consumers can shift their energy use to times when it is less expensive.
Utility plants and other obligations will be paid off earlier, and at a reduced rate of return. This will reduce rates by April 2002. Under monopoly regulation, electric rates, in part, reimbursed utilities for their costs of building power plants and buying electricity from independent power producers to serve their customers. The CPUC reviewed and approved these costs as reasonable and authorized utilities to recover them in rates over many years. To ensure utilities recover these costs during the transition to a competitive electric industry, all utility customers will pay a competition transition chargeómost of which will be collected through March 31, 2002.
Having everyone pay a competition transition charge is important. It means that residential and small commercial customers wonít end up paying higher rates to make up revenue lost from customers who leave the utility system and choose service from a competing company.
OTHER ADVANTAGES OF A COMPETITIVE ELECTRIC INDUSTRY
PUBLIC PURPOSE PROGRAMS
The Legislature and CPUC have established public purpose programs to encourage energy conservation and efficiency, and research and development of energy efficient technologies and products. These programs will continue to be funded through a public goods charge, which all customers will pay. Low-income assistance programs will continue to be funded through a separate charge.
Your monthly electric bill will be itemized so you can easily see how much you are paying for electricity, delivery of electricity, the competition transition charge, the rate reduction bonds, and the public goods charge. However, your rates during the four-year transition period will not be higher than they were in June 1996. Rates for residential and small commercial customers were reduced by 10 percent on January 1, 1998.
WHY THE ELECTRIC INDUSTRY HAS BECOME COMPETITIVE
HOW CALIFORNIAíS ELECTRIC MARKET HAS CHANGED
PG&E, Edison, and SDG&E will continue to own their transmission facilities, but have turned operation of these facilities over to an Independent System Operator (ISO). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates the ISO. The ISO, functioning like an air traffic controller for energy, operates the stateís transmission system to ensure electricity flowing into it reaches all customers when they need it so they continue to have reliable service. The ISO will also ensure that all generators have equal opportunity to send their electricity through the transmission system to their customers. Generators who ship electricity through the system will pay a fee to cover system costs and to ensure reliability.
Utility distribution companies continue to have the "obligation to serve the public," and they will continue to deliver electricity to your home or business regardless of who you choose to sell you electricity.
Distribution lines link your business or home to the transmission system. PG&E, Edison and SDG&E will continue to operate distribution lines and be responsible for reliable, safe delivery of electricity to your home or business. The CPUC will continue to make sure they fulfill this responsibility, and regulate their transmission and distribution rates using performance-based, rather than cost-of-service ratemaking.
A Power Exchange, regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, became operational on March 31, 1998. PG&E, Edison and SDG&E must sell the power generated from their facilities to the Power Exchange. If they wish to, municipalities, independent power producers, irrigation districts, and out-of-state producers may also sell power to the Power Exchange.
PG&E, Edison and SDG&E must buy their power from the Power Exchange to resell to their retail customers. They will pay a price determined by the Power Exchange based on the market demand for power. This will assure fair competition between utilities and other electricity suppliers. To ensure PG&E, Edison, and SDG&E do not continue their traditional monopoly advantage by controlling generation, transmission and distribution, the ISO and Power Exchange are independent of the utilities.
MORE INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE
Look for information in your monthly electric bill and the service offerings of electric providers. The California Public Utilities Commission is a source of neutral, unbiased information about the changes to the electric industry. Visit the CPUCís Internet web site at: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov, or telephone the Electric Education Call Center at 1-800-253-0500.
Participating in the new market will be your choice. If you donít want to change anything about the way you or your business purchases and receives electricity, you wonít have to. If you want to make a change, or learn more about your choices, there is information available to assist you.
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