Welcome to the February 2011 edition of the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) eNewsletter, where you'll find information on new Commissioners, meeting renewable power goals, and more.


CPUC and BOE Promote Low Income Programs

The CPUC will partner with the California State Board of Equalization (BOE) to promote the CPUC’s low income programs, such as California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) and California LifeLine Telephone Program. As part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, BOE has organized several consumer fairs throughout Southern California to help educate qualified consumers not only about filing taxes, but also about other assistance programs such as CARE and LifeLine. The VITA program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income people who cannot prepare their own tax returns, as well as the disabled and the limited English communities.  The CPUC will participate in all of BOE’s events to promote energy conservation and programs that help provide discounts on utility bills.  The first of these events will be held on February 26th in Carson, Calif.  If you are interested in attending these events, please contact the CPUC’s John Roldan at john.roldan@cpuc.ca.gov or call 213-576-7058.

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CPUC Engages Seniors With Upcoming Events

The CPUC will partner with the California State License Board (CSLB) on February 23rd for a Senior Scam Stopper and on February 18th will sponsor its own Senior Awareness Campaign in Alhambra, Calif.  The CPUC informs senior-specific groups about programs that could reduce their utility bills – programs like CARE, Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA), Lifeline, and Medical Baseline.

The CPUC continues to build on its Senior Awareness Campaign by visiting Senior Centers and communities throughout the State to raise awareness of helpful assistance programs.  The Senior Scam Stopper events are designed to specifically explain the various scams that target the senior community.  The CPUC educates the senior community about slamming and cramming, which can occur on phone bills. 

If you are interested in getting additional information about these events, please contact Roland Esquivias at roland.esquivias@cpuc.ca.gov or call 415-703-2212.

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CPUC Welcomes Two New Commissioners

On Jan. 25th Governor Brown appointed Mike Florio and Catherine Sandoval as Commissioners to the CPUC.

“On behalf of Commissioner Simon and the staff of the CPUC, I would like to welcome Commissioner Florio and Commissioner Sandoval,” said CPUC President Michael R. Peevey. “I have known Commissioner Florio for many years as a dedicated and passionate consumer advocate who has a reputation for working with all sides to come to the best outcome for ratepayers. We are also very fortunate to have Commissioner Sandoval join the CPUC. She is a much respected legal scholar and telecommunications expert and will bring these skills to the CPUC. I look forward to collaborating with both new Commissioners as we work to strengthen our commitment to consumer protection and safety.”

Commissioner Florio previously worked as the senior attorney for The Utility Reform Network since 1978.  Commissioner Sandoval has worked as an associate professor at Santa Clara University School of Law since 2004.

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CPUC Launches Program to Assist Limited English Speaking Consumers with Energy Issues

The CPUC has launched a pilot program to provide outreach, education, and dispute and needs resolution assistance on energy matters for consumers who speak little or no English (referred to as Limited English Proficient, or LEP) through a statewide network of Community Based Organizations (CBOs). 

The program, referred to as Community Help and Awareness of Natural Gas and Electricity Services (CHANGES), is supported by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Gas Company and funded at $500,000 through the utilities’ California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) funds.  Although the program is targeted for LEP consumers, statistics from another LEP targeted program show that more than 80 percent of the consumers helped have income levels low enough to qualify for CARE.  California law and CPUC decisions specify that seniors and CARE-eligible consumers should receive the type of information that CHANGES will provide.

The CBOs will provide consumer assistance in the language of the consumer’s choosing from the more than 18 non-English languages available through the program. The CBOs will educate consumers on assistance programs, how to read energy bills, understanding energy baseline and the tiered rate structure, how to avoid service disconnection, energy conservation, and safety.  The CBOs will assist consumers with their utility needs and disputes, such as setting up payment arrangements, getting service established or re-established, and looking into high bill or disputed bill complaints.

The pilot program will be administered by Self-Help for the Elderly, the same contractor who administers the CPUC’s Telecommunications Education and Assistance in Multiple-languages (TEAM) program.

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Utilities Making Progress Toward State's Groundbreaking Renewable Energy Goals

The amount of renewable energy that came online in 2010 is almost double the amount that came online in 2009, according to the CPUC’s Quarterly Staff Report on California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) program, one of the most ambitious in the country. The program requires investor-owned utilities, electric service providers, and community choice aggregators to procure 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010. Former Governor Schwarzenegger’s Executive Orders S-14-08, issued on November 17, 2008, and S-21-09, issued on September 15, 2009, established a further goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020.

Highlights of the report include:

  • 653 megawatts of new renewable capacity came online in 2010, almost double the amount that came online in 2009. This is the most renewable capacity to come online since the beginning of the RPS program.
  • The investor-owned utilities collectively served 15.4 percent of their 2009 electric load with renewable energy, up from 13 percent in 2008. Pacific Gas and Electric Company served 14.4 percent of its 2009 load with RPS-eligible renewable energy, Southern California Edison with 17.4 percent, and San Diego Gas & Electric Company with 10.5 percent. The utilities will report their 2010 RPS percentages in their March 1, 2011, RPS Compliance Filings, which will be posted on the CPUC website at that time.
Collectively, the investor-owned utilities have more renewable electricity under contract than needed to meet a 33 percent RPS target in 2020. However, not all of this electricity is anticipated to come online due to contract failure.

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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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