Welcome to the September 2012 edition of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) eNewsletter, where you’ll find news on consumer programs, bioenergy, and more!


CPUC En Banc Emphasizes Need for Corporate Sustainability

On August 21, 2012, the CPUC hosted its first en banc on sustainable utilities, resulting in the state’s investor-owned utilities launching an inter-utility working group to focus on best practices and developing goals and metrics.

Sustainability was defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. All four of California’s investor-owned utilities have shown leadership in this area and presented overviews of their programs.

En banc speaker Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that if California was as inefficient as Texas then Californians would spend $30 billion more for electricity on an annual basis. He said that in order for sustainability by utilities to be a value-driven proposition it, “must transcend corporate philanthropy and compliance, must be a core value of the enterprise, and the business model for the utility has to be consistent with sustainability performance. But we are not there yet, but we started on the journey earlier than any other state.”

CPUC President Michael R. Peevey who spearheaded the en banc said, “We simply cannot achieve an earth that is truly livable without focusing full-time on sustainability in all we do.” President Peevey called on the utilities to investigate tying their executive bonuses to sustainable performance.

CPUC Commissioner Mark J. Ferron noted, “The emphasis on sustainability needs to come from the top and radiate throughout the entire organization, otherwise it becomes a ‘tick the box exercise,’ or worse, a public relations ploy.”

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CPUC Offers Helpful Information at San Jose Event

The CPUC joined San Jose City Councilmember Donald Rocha (District 9) for the 26th annual Celebrate Cambrian Festival, held in the park of the Camden Community Center in San Jose.  The event featured a resource fair with more than 60 exhibitors. 

The CPUC provided information on the California Alternate Rates for Energy, Energy Savings Assistance Program (ESAP), Medical Baseline, California LifeLine, California Relay Service, and California Telephone Access Program (CTAP).  The CPUC also provided information on handling a power outage/natural disaster, phone scams, energy and water conservation, and how to contact the CPUC with concerns and complaints about utilities and/or utility services.

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CPUC Acts to Continue Energy Low Income Programs

The CPUC has authorized approximately $5 billion to continue two energy related programs that benefit the state’s low income consumers.

The CPUC’s actions allow Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Gas Company to continue to offer the Energy Savings Assistance and California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) programs to their customers through 2014. Eligible CARE customers receive a 20 percent discount on their electric and natural gas bills, while the Energy Savings Assistance Program provides no-cost weatherization services to households who meet income guidelines.

Both programs are funded by ratepayers as part of a statutory public purpose program surcharge that appears on monthly utility bills. The CPUC monitors the programs to ensure that CARE continues its current and successful course of effectively providing necessary assistance to eligibl customers, and that the Energy Savings Assistance Program delivers the benefits envisioned in the California Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan.

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California Releases 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan

On Aug. 22, 2012, California state agencies released the 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan to accelerate clean energy development, job creation, and protection of public health and safety.

Bioenergy is energy produced from organic waste such as agricultural, forest and urban wastes that would otherwise go into landfills or be burned. Increasing production of bioenergy in California can create thousands of new jobs, especially in rural areas that have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Bioenergy also helps to protect public health and safety by reducing the risk of wildfires and the pollution from landfills, dairies, wastewater treatment facilities, and other organic wastes.

The 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan was developed by state agencies and outside experts under the leadership of Governor Brown’s Office. The state agencies responsible for developing and implementing the plan are the Natural Resources Agency, Department of Food and Agriculture, California Environmental Protection Agency, California Public Utilities Commission, California Energy Commission, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), CalRecycle, and the State Water Resources Control Board.

The plan contains more than 50 recommended actions to increase the sustainable use of organic waste, expand research and development of bioenergy facilities, reduce permitting and regulatory challenges, and address economic barriers to bioenergy development. The plan will help facilitate the creation of more than 4,000 jobs and help California meet its clean energy, waste reduction and climate change goals.

California currently produces about 600 megawatts of electricity and 50 to 100 million gasoline gallon equivalents from organic waste each year. Bioenergy facilities employ about 5,000 people and contribute $575 million to the California economy. By reducing the economic and regulatory barriers to bioenergy development in California, the Bioenergy Action Plan will help to nearly double these numbers.

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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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