Welcome to the July edition of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) eNewsletter, where you’ll find information on a new online form to sign-up to speak at voting meetings, Smart Grid plans, renewable energy, and more!


During the Summer Heat the CPUC Visits Communities to Discuss Ways to Keep Your Electric Bills Low

For the next three months the CPUC will participate in and/or sponsor various community events to promote energy conservation as one way to keep your utility bills in check. 

In July the CPUC will participate in community events in Fountain Valley, Hayward, Orange County, Sacramento, Walnut Creek, West Los Angeles, and Yolo County areas.  The goal of this statewide outreach effort is to explain to residential customers how their energy is billed; what Baseline is and why that portion is charged at a lower rate; and options for low income customers to apply for discounts.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Rosalina White at 415-703-5355.

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CPUC Engages in Wide Effort to Educate Small Business Customers About Their New Rate Options

The CPUC has approved the first of three requests by California’s largest electric utilities for new rates intended to provide a financial incentive to either reduce and/or shift energy consumption.

Beginning with Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) non-residential customers, the new rates are intended to reduce electricity demand during peak hours and, for those customers who shift their energy usage to off-peak hours, it could also reduce their electricity bills. The rollout will take place in phases beginning with large electric customers of PG&E, who were transitioned to these rates last month, and following with their small non-residential customers switching to the new rates in November 2011.  The goal is to reduce demand during those times of the year when demand for electricity is the highest.  If customers can collectively reduce the peak demand for electricity, they can help improve the reliability of the electric grid, decrease the need for additional power plants, and reduce greenhouse gases.

The CPUC understands that for small and medium non-residential customers there will need to be a large customer education effort. As such, the CPUC will begin its outreach efforts in the next few months. The CPUC will work with Chambers of Commerce, various business associations, business groups, trade journals, and other organizations to target small and medium businesses and explain the new rates and how they can take advantage of them. Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric Company will also begin to request these rates for their customers. The CPUC will make every effort to engage customers to take advantage of these new options available to them.

If you have any questions and/or need more information on the CPUC’s outreach efforts to engage customers regarding these new rate options, please contact Sommer Harvey at 415-703-1182 or email at som@cpuc.ca.gov.

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New Online Form Offers Additional Way to Sign-Up to Speak at CPUC Voting Meetings; Rules For Public Comment Created

The CPUC has unveiled a new online public speaker sign-up form and adopted rules to streamline public access, accommodation, and participation at CPUC voting meetings.

The CPUC welcomes and encourages public participation, and each voting meeting starts with a public comment period. To offer individuals another easy way to sign up to make public comment, the CPUC now offers an online sign-up form that can be submitted electronically by noon the day before a voting meeting.

Speakers must still visit the Public Advisor’s Office table before 10 a.m. on the day of the meeting to ask staff to mark their presence. Individuals may also still sign-up in person the day of the voting meeting at the Public Advisor’s Office table before 10 a.m.

The CPUC has also adopted rules to streamline and improve the public comment process. The rules include speaker time limits, a sign-in deadline, topics that may be addressed, and submission of written materials.

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CPUC Launches Plan to Modernize Electric Grid

The CPUC has embarked on a momentous path toward modernizing the state’s electric grid from one based on industrial age technology to one based on the technology of the information age.

On June 25, 2010, the CPUC adopted a decision by Commissioner Nancy E. Ryan that sets out a framework and an overall vision for a Smart Grid in California and requires the state’s investor-owned utilities to begin the transformation of the electric grid into a safer, more reliable, efficient, affordable, and interoperable system.

A Smart Grid is characterized by the ability to use real-time information to anticipate, detect, and respond to system problems. One example of new technology being deployed for smarter grid operations is measurements that are taken every two or four seconds, offering an almost continuous view into the power system. That real-time updating of the transmission system allows the grid to respond instantly to outages by scheduling electricity around constrained or downed areas across the grid, limiting the size and scope of outages. Real-time operations can also ease congestion and bottlenecks and reduce line losses (where electricity is “lost” due to heat and other factors), all of which result in savings to consumers by transporting electricity more efficiently.

To ensure that the state’s utilities follow a common outline in preparing their Smart Grid deployment plans, the CPUC has provided a roadmap of issues the utilities must address in their plans in order to bring the best results at the lowest possible cost to consumers, including security, privacy, and cost considerations.

The California legislature and Governor have enshrined the importance of modernizing the state’s electric grid through the enactment of Senate Bill 17 (Padilla), signed into law on October 11, 2009.

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SDG&E Gets CPUC OK for Electric Vehicle Study and Rates

The CPUC has approved new temporary experimental rates for plug-in electric vehicles for San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E) customers as part of the utility’s Pricing and Technology Study.

The Study will be performed by SDG&E, in collaboration with ECOtality, Inc. and Nissan. The experimental rate schedules will begin January 1, 2011, and will remain in effect until November 30, 2012 (or until the completion of the Study). ECOtality was the recipient of a U.S. Department of Energy stimulus grant to fund the deployment of electric vehicles and charging systems in five U.S. cities, including San Diego.

Through the ECOtality project, the first 1,000 purchasers of Nissan LEAF electric vehicles in San Diego will receive free home charging equipment. Each Nissan car owner will also become a participant in SDG&E’s Pricing and Technology Study. The objective of the Study is to benefit California’s understanding of how electric vehicles interact with the electric grid. The Study’s working hypothesis is that greater variations in time-varying pricing, together with the use of accommodative vehicle technology, will shift more charging activity to off-peak periods.

In 2009, Senate Bill 626 (Kehoe D-San Diego) directed the CPUC to evaluate policies to develop infrastructure sufficient to overcome any barriers to the widespread deployment and use of plug-in and electric vehicles, and to adopt rules by July 1, 2011, on specified matters, including infrastructure upgrades necessary for the widespread use of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, amongst other topics.

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CPUC Report Shows Utilities Making Progress Toward Renewable Energy Goal

The CPUC’s quarterly renewable energy progress report to the state Legislature shows that in the first quarter of 2010, the state’s utilities submitted 37 renewable contracts for CPUC approval, more than the number of contracts the CPUC approves in an entire year, on average.

According to the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) Quarterly Report for the 2nd Quarter 2010, the utilities are contracting with renewable projects at an unprecedented rate. The utilities (Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric Company) are requesting approval of more than 50 contracts before the end of the year, which is twice as much as the utilities have requested in prior years. More than a dozen of these projects are requesting American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

In 2009, the state’s utilities collectively served 15.4 percent of their electricity with renewable energy, up from 13 percent in 2008. This increase is due to a number of factors, including newly installed renewable capacity; small hydroelectric facilities generating more power; more contracts with existing facilities; and customers using less electricity in 2009 than in 2008, so the utilities’ renewable procurement accounted for a greater percentage of retail sales. Based on the contracts signed to date, the utilities are expected to be at about 18 percent in 2010 and 21 percent in 2011.

The RPS program was established in 2002 under Senate Bill 1078 (Sher) and modified in 2006 under Senate Bill 107 (Simitian). It requires utilities, energy service providers, and community choice aggregators operating in California to obtain 20 percent of their retail sales from renewable energy sources by 2010. On November 17, 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-14-08, which established a 33 percent by 2020 RPS goal.

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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.
July 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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