Welcome to the August 2012 edition of the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) eNewsletter, where you'll find information on National 811 Day, California's solar success, and the CPUC's outreach to seniors and the disabled.


CPUC Helps Educate at Disability Events

The CPUC was an exhibitor at the 3rd Annual West Coast Disability Pride Parade & Festival in Mountain View, sponsored by the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center and the Office of Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese (District 3).

The CPUC joined approximately 40 vendors and a crowd of more than 1,500 to celebrate the signing of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The CPUC provided a wealth of resources to the fair-goers, including information on consumer programs and services, California LifeLine, preparedness tips in the event of a power outage, phone scams, and more.

The CPUC also exhibited at the Disabilities Awareness Fair in Redwood City, sponsored by the San Mateo County Commission on Disabilities. The CPUC’s California Telephone Access Program displayed phones with features such as big buttons and speech assist.

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CPUC Raises Awareness of Consumer Programs to Pacifica Seniors

The CPUC visited the Pacifica Community Center to help educate senior citizens about state programs that can help them save money on energy and telephone bills.
The CPUC shared information about the California Alternate Rates for Energy Program, the Energy Savings Assistance Program, Family Electric Rate Assistance, and Medical Baseline, as well as California LifeLine and the California Telephone Access Program.

The CPUC also offered tips on how to recognize and report telephone scams, as well as what to do if you fall victim to a scam. The CPUC also provided tips on energy and water conservation and information on how to contact the CPUC with questions and concerns about utilities and/or utility services.

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California Leads The Nation In Customer-Generated Solar Power

The CPUC issued its 2012 California Solar Initiative (CSI) Annual Program Assessment, showing that in 2011 California reached a major milestone by becoming the first state in the nation to install more than 1 gigawatt (1,000 megawatts) of customer-generated solar energy; a record 311 megawatts (MW) were installed in the investor-owned utility territories in 2011 alone.

As outlined in the report, currently more than 122,000 sites across the state host solar systems to serve on-site solar generation. The annual rate of new solar installations and the cumulative installed capacity both provide evidence that California is well along the path of achieving the goals set by Senate Bill (SB) 1 in 2006, the legislation that authorized the CSI Program.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Costs for residential solar system have decreased by 28 percent since 2007.
  • CSI projects in low income markets(areas with median incomes of less than $50,000) have increased by 364 percent since 2007.
    • Approximately 1,500 low income homeowners, with help from the Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program, have installed solar panels to generate energy and improve their monthly cash flow - something that has a big impact in today's sensitive housing market.
    • The SASH program surpassed its goals, installing more than 1,000 projects for low income families by the end of 2011.
    • The Multi-family Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program completed 181 projects as of April 30, 2012, with a capacity of 9.1 MW.
    • Virtual Net Metering has allowed thousands of low income tenants to receive the direct benefits of solar as reductions in their monthly electric bills.
  • CSI projects in middle income markets (areas with median incomes between $50,000 and $100,000) have increased by 445 percent since 2007, and comprise the majority of applications received in 2011.
  • In just over two years of operation, the CSI-Thermal Program, which provides rebates for solar water heating systems, has received 704 applications for $4.87 million in incentives.

In January 2007, California began an unprecedented $3.3 billion effort to install 3,000 MW of new solar over the next decade and transform the market for solar energy by reducing the cost of solar generating equipment. The CPUC portion of the solar effort is known as the CSI Program. CSI, the country’s largest solar program, has a $2.4 billion budget and a goal to install 1,940 MW of solar capacity by the end of 2016.

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National 811 Day Offers Reminder to Call Before You Dig

The CPUC, in support of the efforts of the California Regional Common Ground Alliance, reminds all Californians that August 11 (811) serves as a natural reminder to call 811 prior to any digging project in order to have the location of below ground utility owned pipelines or other structures located and marked.

On August 11th of every year, stakeholders from all aspects of the excavating community, which includes utilities, regulators, excavation contractors, and companies that support damage prevention efforts year-round, make an extra effort to communicate to professionals and homeowners the importance of calling 811 to find out what’s below before beginning any digging project. People doing work or projects that require digging into the ground – from those making holes for garden projects and fences to contractors digging up pavement – must call 811 to know what’s below before they begin digging in order to reduce  the risk of striking an underground utility line. Adhering to this safe digging process helps prevent injuries, property damage, and outages.

When calling 811, professionals and homeowners are connected to their local one-call center, USA North or DigAlert, which notifies its member utility companies of the intent to dig.  Within two business days (not including weekends and holidays) utilities will locate and mark, using flags or spray paint, the approximate location of their facilities that are within the work area designated by the caller. Otherwise, the utilities will provide notification that they have no facilities in that area. In the case of master-metered mobilehome parks, park management needs to provide the location of master-metered subsurface facilities.

Striking a single subsurface facility can cause injury, significant repair costs, fines, and inconvenient outages. Every excavation project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811. Installing a mailbox, putting in a fence, building a deck, and laying a patio are all examples of excavation projects for which 811 should be called before starting. In the case of master-metered mobilehome parks, residents should call 811, and also notify park management, before excavating within the park.

The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects, and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists. Failure to call before excavating results in more than 250,000 unintentional hits annually.

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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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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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