Welcome to the November 2009 edition of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) eNewsletter!


CPUC Unveils New Subscription Service

The CPUC, in its ongoing efforts to increase public involvement in its proceedings, has unveiled a free online subscription service that allows access to documents published on our website.

This new service will allow you to follow a particular proceeding, industry (energy, transportation/rail, water/sewer, telecommunications, or all), or type of document in a manner that best meets your needs.

The subscription service will send subscribers an email notification when any document meeting their subscription criteria is published on our website, such as documents associated with formal proceedings, resolutions, agenda related materials, and press releases.

Documents that are filed electronically are not published to our website until they have been accepted for filing, so there is some delay in receiving notification of the filing of documents. Those needing to receive copies of documents at the moment of service should still request to be added to the service list. In addition, some types of documents are not currently published on our website, such as prepared testimony and Advice Letters. In that case, the document would not be available to the subscriber.

We will continue to make upgrades to the subscription service to include more functionality and documents.

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CPUC Connects Chico Businesses With Contracting Opportunities

The CPUC co-sponsored a free Small Business Expo and Matchmaking Fair on Oct. 22, 2009, in Chico. The event brought small businesses together with state agencies and utilities in order to help small businesses learn how to obtain state and utility contracts and sell goods and services and obtain valuable information on financial services, bonding/insurance, and pre-paid legal services. The event featured the Mayor of Chico, Ann Schwab, and CPUC Commissioner John A. Bohn, who moderated a workshop on “Connecting Businesses with State and Utility Contracts” and spoke on Opportunities in the New Green Economy.

California agencies are under Executive Order to conduct 25 percent of their procurement and contracts with small businesses and 3 percent with Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Enterprises. Small business programs complement the CPUC's Supplier Diversity Program, which encourages participating utilities to increase procurement levels with women, minority, and disabled veteran-owned business enterprises.

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CPUC Responds To PG&E Customer Concerns About Smart Meter Installations In Bakersfield

The CPUC is requiring Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to obtain an independent third-party technical expert to test and validate meter and billing accuracy of Smart Meters currently being deployed in Bakersfield.

Consumers have expressed concern over high energy bills that have occurred at the same time PG&E installed Smart Meters in Bakersfield. In order to examine the facts surrounding the issues, PG&E will work with an independent third-party chosen by the CPUC to review both the hardware and software of the Smart Meters. PG&E must also submit weekly reports to the CPUC on customer complaints about Smart Meters, and must report to the CPUC the location of future Smart Meter installations and the consumer education and outreach it is conducting in those areas

The CPUC approved PG&E’s Smart Meter plan on July 20, 2006, and authorized the company to install Smart Meters throughout its territory and upgrade all of its approximately 5 million electric meters and 4 million gas meters over a 5-year period.

The CPUC has allowed the state’s utilities to replace conventional customer electric meters with Smart Meters because they represent an integral part of the state’s “demand response” efforts. Demand response programs allow consumers and businesses to reduce the use of their electricity during times of high energy demand.

Smart Meters allow PG&E customers to access their energy usage on a real-time basis, rather than receiving such information at the end of a billing cycle. The improved system also incorporates a remote connect/disconnect device on all meters, eliminating the need for PG&E to visit the location every time a customer moves in or out of their home. This provides significant operational savings for the company, which ultimately gets passed on to consumers. Demand response joins energy efficiency as the state’s preferred way to meet electricity demand, as outlined in California's Energy Action Plan.

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CPUC Approves Refund to PG&E’s Electric Customers

The CPUC approved a refund of $424.4 million to electric customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) as a result of an over-collection of funds needed to pay for the cost of electricity.

PG&E requested CPUC approval to make a refund to customers when it determined that its Energy Resource Recovery Account (ERRA) is projected to be approximately $424.4 million over-collected as of December 31, 2009. Refunds will be made to electric customers in the form of a one-time bill credit in the November/December 2009 billing cycle.

The CPUC said that the refund is possible because energy costs this year have been lower than expected when the CPUC updated PG&E’s electric rates a year ago. Because those costs dropped more than expected, PG&E no longer needed all the funds it had already collected from ratepayers. The CPUC’s decision ensures that the customers who paid the extra costs will now receive that money back in the form of a credit on their bills. Furthermore, since energy prices continue to be low, the CPUC will establish PG&E’s expected cost of electricity for next year at a level that ensures that customer bills will continue to collect no more than these costs on a going-forward basis.

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CPUC Receives $2.3 Million In Stimulus Funding For Broadband Mapping And Planning

The CPUC was awarded $2.3 million under the State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program to collect information on broadband service availability in the state and create an interactive web-based map that will give California residents the ability to access information about the services and providers available at their own address. State and federal policymakers will also be able to use this information to analyze the status of broadband deployment in California and across the nation, and to develop broadband policies aimed at making advanced services available everywhere, regardless of issues such as urban/rural location or income.

The CPUC's grant also includes $500,000 for non-mapping activities related to broadband demand and adoption issues. The CPUC is partnering with California State University, Chico Research Foundation for this portion of the grant activities, through a four-year agreement. The CSU Chico Research Foundation will identify subscribership levels within census blocks to develop a plan to identify barriers to broadband adoption, develop marketing and promotional material that will be utilized to promote broadband adoption and usage, and work with broadband providers to encourage high speed Internet services. These tasks will fulfill the requirements of the broadband planning portion of this grant program while helping the CPUC in its efforts to close the digital divide.

The CPUC oversees the California Advanced Services Fund, which was established by the CPUC on December 20, 2007. It is a two-year, $100 million effort to provide 40 percent matching infrastructure grants to broadband providers willing to put up the matching 60 percent of funds and to serve the nearly 2,000 California communities that are currently unserved and underserved by broadband.

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Staff Report on Solar Initiative Progress Issued

The CPUC's California Solar Initiative team issued a staff report on Oct. 21, 2009, showing that the program reached 257 megawatts of installed solar at 21,159 sites since 2007! The report focuses on the third-quarter of 2009 in which the program saw record high demand for new solar applications, including over 2,200 program applications in the month of August alone. The report also says that small solar systems prices declined 9 percent and large system prices declined by 13 percent since the same quarter last year. Read the report and get more information on how to Go Solar!

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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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© 2009, California Public Utilities Commission. All rights reserved.
November 2009


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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