Welcome to this edition of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) eNewsletter, where you’ll find information on our newest Commissioner, incentives to install solar water systems, broadband grants, and more.

 
 

Small Business Outreach – CPUC Wins Award

On January 20th and 21st, CPUC staff attended the San Joaquin Valley Regional Conference and Outreach - a Public Contracting Expo, in Bakersfield and received a “Public Corporation Award” in recognition of its dedication to small business empowerment.

The event was attended by over 100 small business owners and public officials and gave the CPUC an opportunity to promote procurement from small businesses and our Supplier Diversity Program, which is predominantly made up of small businesses, and stress the need for companies to get certified through the CPUC’s Program

The CPUC will continue to attend events to inform small business owners about how to procure contracts through the CPUC’s contracting process and also to help inform this community about regulatory policies that may have an impact on their bottom line.

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Senior Awareness Campaign

Launched in 2008, the CPUC continues to educate and inform the senior community about programs that are available to them for rate assistance on their utility bills and the current telecommunication scams that target this community.

The CPUC held five events throughout the State during January to invite seniors to learn more about their energy and phone bills and the corresponding programs that are available to them such as Medical Baselinediscounts and low income assistance for natural gas and electric bills, and California LifeLine for their phone bills.  These events are held at Senior Community Centers and/or at the offices of Community Based Organizations to allow seniors to attend and participate.  In addition to promoting programs that can assist with utility bills, these events also warn about various telecommunication fraud that target this community such as slamming and cramming.

The CPUC will continue to hold events for the senior community and partner with Community Based Organizations to not only educate and inform seniors, but also the community at large, depending on need.  To this end, this year the CPUC will partner with the local offices of Senators and Assembly members to ensure that we reach their constituents as they receive calls for help and education. If you need more information, please visit our website.

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CPUC Adopts Consumer Education Guidelines for On-Site Backup Power

The CPUC has adopted guidelines for customer education programs for facilities-based telephone service providers who service residential customers using technologies that require backup power on a customer’s premises.

The guidelines address the need for backup power to operate a customer’s telephone during a power outage, backup power limitations, and service provider and customer responsibilities. The CPUC directed service providers to enhance their existing customer education programs to meet the guidelines, which include:

  • Customers must be informed that their service utilizes a backup battery located on the customer's premises to provide service during a power outage.
  • Customers must be told that cordless phones will not work during a power outage.
  • Customers must be informed of the limitations of the backup battery's ability to provide service during a power outage and how to maximize the customer's ability to make necessary calls during a power outage. This will include the fact that the backup battery cannot power a cordless phone or other equipment connected to the telephone line that requires electricity from the customer's premises, such as telecommunications devices used to assist customers with disabilities.
  • Customers must be informed of their own and their service provider’s responsibilities regarding battery monitoring and replacement. This will include information on the limitations of the service provider's liability as it relates to backup power.
  • Information must be provided about a customer’s options regarding where to place the backup battery unit on the customer’s premises.
  • If a customer was marketed to in a language other than English, the customer education information must be presented in that language in a format the consumer can utilize.
The CPUC adopted these guidelines in response to Assembly Bill 2393 (Levine), which required the CPUC to consider the need for performance reliability standards for backup power systems installed on a residential or small commercial customer's premises by a facilities-based telecommunications service provider.

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CPUC Welcomes New Commissioner

The CPUC welcomed Nancy E. Ryan, Ph.D, as its newest Commissioner after Governor Schwarzenegger announced her appointment on January 27, 2010.

Commissioner Ryan is an economist with expertise in energy markets, climate change policy, and the public health and ecological impacts of energy production. Since February 2009, she has served as the CPUC’s Deputy Executive Director for Policy. She joined the CPUC in January 2006 as President Peevey’s Chief Energy Advisor and served as his Chief of Staff from April 2007 to February 2009.  While at the CPUC Commissioner Ryan has played a key role in developing policies in the areas of climate change, electricity market design, and renewable energy.  In the course of these efforts she has helped to build and enhance the CPUC’s working relationships with its sister energy agencies and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as the Legislature and Governor’s office.

Prior to joining the CPUC, Commissioner Ryan was Senior Economist and Deputy California Director at Environmental Defense Fund, where she led policy initiatives focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and power plants, curbing air pollution from diesel engines, and restoring rivers and watersheds.

Commissioner Ryan, 49, received her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. in Economics from Yale.

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CPUC Approves Refund for Natural Gas Customers

The CPUC approved allocation of approximately $113 million to natural gas customers arising from settlements approved by the San Diego Superior Court to address scarcity in the natural gas market in 2000-2001 and manipulation of the published price of natural gas from 1999-2002.

Settlement funds will be distributed to the customers of the following utilities in these percentages:

  • Pacific Gas and Electric Company: 46.7%
  • Southern California Gas Company: 31.49%
  • San Diego Gas and Electric Company: 14.42%
  • Long Beach Gas and Oil Department: 4.07%
  • South West Gas: 3.32%

Proceeds will be returned to the respective utility’s customers through a one-time credit to the procurement rates for each utility.

The proceeds are a result of settlements in two groups of cases. One group of cases relate to civil suits filed in 2000 alleging that major pipeline companies conspired to create a scarcity in the natural gas delivery market, which contributed to the energy crisis of 2000-2001. The other group of cases relate to a set of civil cases filed in 2003, which alleged that traders of natural gas manipulated the published price of natural gas in the California market from 1999 to 2002.

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CPUC Approves Matching Grants for Broadband in Central Valley and Northern California

The CPUC has approved three matching grants totaling $27,778,681 from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to bring high-speed Internet broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of the Central Valley, North Coast, and Northeastern California.

The projects are:

1) California Valley Broadband Project by California Valley Broadband, LLC would build a wireless network to serve communities in the counties of Fresno, Madera, Merced, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, and Stanislaus. The project will receive 10 percent matching grants from the CASF contingent upon approval for 80 percent matching grants from the federal broadband stimulus portion ($7.2 billion) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  California Valley Broadband, LLC would construct a wireless network using WiFi and WiMAX frequencies to deliver Internet services, including VoIP, at speeds of up to 20 mbps download and 6 mbps upload to an estimated 40,905 potential unserved households and 36,290 underserved households. It would serve potential new subscribers, create an estimated 560 construction and related jobs, stimulate economic output and growth, and improve the lives of the residents of the Central Valley area.

2) Northeastern California Broadband Project by Broadband Associates International, Inc. (BBA) involves the construction of 640 miles of fiber optic infrastructure from BBA’s existing backbone at State Highway 299 for an overall coverage of approximately 6,000 square miles to serve schools, colleges, health centers, businesses, and residents in the counties of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Tehama, and Yuba. The project will receive 10 percent matching grants from the CASF contingent upon approval for 80 percent ARRA funding including a 10 percent matching fund waiver or a total of 90 percent from the federal broadband stimulus portion of the ARRA.

3) Sea Ranch Project by Verizon California, Inc., would install new fiber optic line to serve unserved and underserved portions of the Sea Ranch - (Yardarm-95480 cluster), Cazadero, and Timber Cove areas along the northern Sonoma County coast. The project would provide Internet speeds of 7 mbps download and 0.768 mbps upload. The project spans 20 square miles and would serve approximately 232 households. The project will receive a 40 percent matching grant from the CASF and will not apply for ARRA funding.

The CASF was established on December 20, 2007, to provide 40 percent matching infrastructure grants to broadband providers willing to put up the matching 60 percent of funds and to serve the nearly 2,000 California communities that are currently unserved and underserved by broadband.

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CPUC Establishes Incentives for Installation of Solar Water Heating Systems

The CPUC has established a California Solar Initiative (CSI) Thermal Program to provide incentives for the installation of solar water heating (SWH) systems in new and existing homes and businesses in the territories of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and Southern California Gas Company.

Beginning May 1, 2010, residential customers who install certified SWH systems will qualify for a state rebate of up to $1,875. Actual incentive payments will be determined by the thermal output of the system. The typical system that displaces natural gas will initially earn a rebate of $1,500, while the typical electricity-displacing system will qualify for a rebate of $1,010. Incentive levels will decline in four steps as the solar thermal market grows, similar to the general market CSI-photovoltaic program. Commercial and multi-family customers who install certified SWH systems will qualify for up-front incentives of up to $500,000 beginning on June 1, 2010. 

The CSI Thermal Program will be funded by $250 million in collections from natural gas ratepayers, pursuant to Assembly Bill (AB) 1470, as well as up to $100.8 million in funds already authorized and currently being collected through the general market CSI photovoltaic program and earmarked in Senate Bill 1 for solar thermal projects such as solar water heating. Monies collected under AB 1470 from natural gas ratepayers will fund incentives for solar water heating systems that displace natural gas usage, while funds collected through CSI from electric ratepayers will fund electric displacing solar water heating systems.

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Visit our Consumer Information Center for more assistance. Consumers with utility complaints can call our Consumer Affairs Branch at 1-800-649-7570.

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© 2010, California Public Utilities Commission. All rights reserved.
February 2010

 



Produced by the CPUC's News and Public Information Office and Business and Community Outreach, 415-703-1366, news@cpuc.ca.gov
505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102.
 

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