Welcome to the May 2010 edition of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) eNewsletter, where you’ll find information on the continued demand for solar, the CPUC’s activities on Earth Day, Smart Meters for SoCalGas, and more.


CPUC Promotes Small Businesses

The CPUC recently attended the Southwest California Business Summit presented by the Economic Development Corporation of Southwest California. The summit was held in Temecula and it focused on creating and enhancing businesses relationships to help promote economic growth in Southwest California. The event represented a coalition of five cities and their Chambers of Commerce (Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Temecula, and Wildomar). It featured 44 exhibitors including cities, chambers, utilities, green and information technology groups, as well as nine workshops and presentations.

Pursuant to the Governor’s 2006 Executive Order, CPUC and other State agencies are working to procure at least 25 percent of their total procurement base from small businesses.  As such, CPUC staff participated and spoke on the panel titled, “State Procurement”.  The CPUC’s program focuses on two areas 1) Promoting procurement opportunities with the state and utilities; 2) Providing education and outreach necessary to raise internal and external awareness of various regulatory and legislative policy issues impacting the small business community. The CPUC also assists small businesses with utility related complaints and issues and informs small businesses of CPUC contracting opportunities.

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40th Anniversary of Earth Day

The CPUC participated in the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2010, hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency at the Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco.  The CPUC gave out information on energy programs and initiatives such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, and a Smart Grid.  The event attracted an international audience that included environmental groups, community based organizations, seniors, students, and tourists. 

CPUC staff worked to educate the attendees on the benefits of clean, safe, reliable energy and the smart use of energy.   The education and promotion conducted was not only through educational materials, but also games and trivia for the students and kids in an attempt to excite the younger population to be a smart energy consumer.  The CPUC’s outreach officers were pleased to reach out to young people and were interviewed by a group of foreign language students who wanted to know all about the CPUC’s role and involvement in Earth Day.

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CPUC Clarifies Rules to Better Inform Customers Considering Service From Community Choice Aggregators

The CPUC has provided additional guidance on the implementation of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) rules for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E) in order to better inform existing and potential CCA customers.

Specifically, the CPUC directed the utilities to:

  1. Modify a CCA tariff rule to ensure that the utilities do not provide an opportunity to customers to opt-out of CCA service before a particular CCA has initiated its own opt-out process and provided information about its rate, terms, and conditions to customers.
  2. Prevent utilities from refusing to sell electricity to CCAs simply because they are CCAs.
  3. Prevent utilities from offering goods, services, or programs as an inducement for a local government not to participate in a CCA.
Assembly Bill 117 (2002, Migden) enables cities and/or counties to implement a CCA program, which allows communities to offer procurement service to electric customers within their boundaries. The CCA rules include a process that allows customers to opt out of the CCA-provided service in order to remain a utility bundled service customer.

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CPUC Approves Smart Meters for SoCalGas

The CPUC has authorized Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) to develop and deploy a gas-only advanced metering infrastructure system throughout its service territory. The advanced meter technology will enhance operational efficiencies, customer service and safety, and energy conservation.

The CPUC determined that the SoCalGas’ advanced metering proposal is consistent with several of the state’s energy objectives of increasing energy conservation and demand-side management, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and providing customers with information and tools that allow them to manage and make educated decisions about their energy use.

The CPUC made several modifications to SoCalGas’s original plan to ensure that the project will return benefits to ratepayers in excess of its costs, including the reduction of certain elements of project costs and a requirement that company shareholders share equally with ratepayers the burden of any cost overruns.

SoCalGas must develop and present in a public workshop a plan for outreach and conservation support, and follow through with semiannual reporting on the gas conservation impacts of the project. It must also increase its funding for the transition and retraining of SoCalGas employees displaced by the project.

The data that advanced meters collect will help enhance customer service, security, and convenience. There no longer will be a need to access a customer’s property; instead, natural gas meters will be read automatically - sending information electronically from a customer's gas meter to the utility. Once installed, advanced meters will eliminate close to seven million driving miles annually related to meter reading. It also will improve air quality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions each year due to energy savings and by removing vehicles from the road.  In addition, advanced meters are also the first step toward creating a Smart Grid in California. With a Smart Grid, digital technologies are applied to every aspect of the industry, from generation, to transmission, to distribution, to the customer interface.

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Demand For Solar Continues to Soar

The CPUC’s California Solar Initiative (CSI) achieved a milestone of over 50 megawatts (MW) of solar rebate reservations in a single month, an amount of capacity equivalent to a typical peaking power plant that provides energy during times of high electricity demand.

In March, 2,355 customers made reservations for cash rebates offered under the CSI program, totaling 12 MW of residential and 40 MW of non-residential (commercial, governmental, agricultural, non-profit) solar capacity.  Once customers file a reservation they have 12 to 18 months to install their solar.

The CSI program offers solar incentives to energy users (except new homes) in investor-owned utility territories in California. The CSI program has a goal to install 1,940 MW of new solar by 2017. The $2.2 billion program will run until December 31, 2016, and incentive levels are designed to decline as more megawatts of solar are reserved and installed.

Through the end of 2009, customers in the service areas of PG&E, San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E), and Southern California Edison had installed over 57,625 solar projects for a total of 541 MW. Installations in the first quarter of 2010 continued at a steady pace.  There were 35 MW of projects installed in the first quarter, keeping up the 10 MW+/month pace that became the norm in 2009.

The CSI program is part of the Go Solar California campaign, which has three distinct programs, each with a portion of the statewide budget and solar installation goals:

1) The CPUC’s CSI provides incentives to customers of PG&E, SDG&E, and Edison. These three utilities represent about 75-80 percent of homes and existing and new commercial, industrial, government, non-profit, and agricultural properties. The CSI program includes a solar photovoltaics rebate program; two solar programs targeted at affordable housing (one for single family and the other for multifamily affordable housing); as well as a research, development and demonstration program. In January, the CPUC authorized the CSI-Thermal program to provide incentives for solar hot water systems, expected to launch in May 2010.

2) The New Solar Homes Partnership, managed by the California Energy Commission, provides incentives for the installation of solar PV on new residential construction. The budget is $400 million over 10 years, with a goal of 360 megawatts.

3) The Publicly Owned Utilities program requires each municipal utility to offer a solar PV incentive program, an aggregate commitment of $784 million over 10 years, toward a goal of 700 megawatts.

Since its inception in 2007, the CSI has consistently seen robust levels of demand for solar rebates. Weekly program demand data, including new rebate applications, installed systems, and system costs, is available online.

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Governor, Attorney General, and CPUC Announce $400 Million Energy Crisis Settlement With Sempra Energy

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., and the CPUC have announced a $400 million settlement with San Diego-based Sempra Energy of litigation arising out of the Energy Crisis of 2000-2001. The settlement resolves a series of lawsuits and claims the Attorney General, the CPUC, and other California parties brought against Sempra before the courts and federal regulators.

Sempra Energy is a diversified energy company. The settlement involves Sempra’s power plants and an energy trading company - Sempra Generation and Sempra Commodities. Both Sempra subsidiaries participated in the wholesale electricity markets in California during the Energy Crisis, when power prices spiked to record high levels. It is these two companies that will pay the $400 million refund to California consumers. Sempra also owns San Diego Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Gas Company.

The parties to the Sempra settlement include the Attorney General, the CPUC, Southern California Edison, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The settlement requires the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The CPUC approved the settlement at its April 22, 2010, meeting.

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