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OAL – Office of Administrative Law: Responsible for reviewing administrative regulations proposed by over 200 state agencies for compliance with the standards set forth in California 's Administrative Procedure Act, for transmitting these regulations to the Secretary of State and for publishing regulations in the California Code of Regulations. On the Internet at

OAL -- Other Access Line:  Facilities used to provide wire line telecommunications service that are neither residential nor business access lines. Example: Coin lines and non-switched access lines.

OCMS – Optional Calling Measured Service: Telephone service that allows residential customers outside the San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas to call over specified routes within a 40-mile radius at reduced rates.

OCR – Optical Character Recognition: The ability of a light sensitive, optical scanning device to sense characters in hard copy, or printed copy, and to convert them into digital form for electronic processing and transmission.

OCTA – Orange County Transportation Authority: OCTA creates, funds and delivers efficient transportation for Orange County . They oversee extensive bus and paratransit service, Metrolink commuter rail service, the 91 Express Lanes toll road, freeway, street and road improvement projects, motorist services and by regulating taxi operations. On the Internet at

OEPC – Operating Expense Per Customer: Total operating and maintenance expense divided by total number of customers.

OES – Office of Emergency Services: Coordinates overall state agency response to major disasters in support of local government. The office is responsible for assuring the state's readiness to respond to and recover from natural, manmade, and war-caused emergencies, and for assisting local governments in their emergency preparedness, response and recovery efforts.

Off-peak Gas: Gas that is to be delivered and taken on demand when demand is not at its peak.

Off-peak Service: Service made available on special schedules or contracts on a firm basis but only for a specified time during the portion of the load cycle of lease use.

Offset Rate Increase: A rate increase to pass on to customers the cost of increases that are beyond a utility's control, e.g., to cover increased Ad Valorem Taxes (property taxes collected by a county on the valuation of a utility's assets).

OGA – Office of Governmental Affairs: A Division of the PUC that represents the PUC before the State Legislature and Executive Branch, and oversees representation of the PUC and State of California before the U.S. Congress and federal agencies.

Ohm: The unit of measurement of electrical resistance. The resistance of a circuit in which a potential difference of 1 volt produces a current of 1 am pere.

OII – Order Instituting Investigation: A motion initiated by the PUC to explore broad policy issues, resolve procedural matters, investigate charges of improper or illegal activity by a regulated utility or transportation company, or respond to directives from the Legislature.  An OII will name one or more utility companies as respondents and usually require them to take specific action, e.g., file data or comments on a particular subject or respond at hearings to matters covered in the OII.

OIR – Order Instituting Rulemaking: An investigatory proceeding opened by the PUC to consider the creation or revision of rules or guidelines in a matter affecting more than one utility or a broad sector of the industry.  Comments and proposals are submitted in written form.  Oral arguments or presentations are sometimes allowed.  The PUC's decision is often implemented in a General Order (GO).

OIS – Outage Information System: A computer system used by utilities to track and transmit information on system outages and problems.

OMPC – Operating Margin Per Customer: Operating revenue less operating expense divided by total number of customers.

ONA – Open Network Architecture: The concept of network services planning, design, and placement that ultimately makes available to the customer the capabilities possessed by the Independent Telephone Companies.

OP – Ordering Paragraph: The section of a PUC decision that orders the utilities/parties to comply with certain rules/regulations.

Open Access: A regulatory mandate to allow others to use a utility's transmission and distribution facilities to move bulk power from one point to another on a nondiscriminatory basis for a cost-based fee.

Open Season: Designated time period in which potential customers for a proposed transmission or storage project must submit their service elections for capacity to the interstate pipeline, utility, or storage provider.  For the PUC-regulated utilities, noncore customers that do not elect firm capacity during an open season may receive default service, or they may continue to receive service based on prior elections depending upon tariff provisions and available capacity.

Operable Nuclear Unit: A nuclear unit is "operable" after it completes low-power testing and is granted authorization to operate at full power. This occurs when it receives its full power amendment to its operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Operating Ratio: The ratio of operating expenses to pertinent revenues.

Optical Scanner: A device that scans both written text and graphics and converts them into digital information suitable for electronic processing or transmission.

ORA - Office of Ratepayer Advocates: A Division of the PUC that participates in PUC proceedings, workshops, and other forums with significant dollar impacts on consumers, that address issues of consumer protection, development of fair rules for competition or other significant policy issues, and that address service quality, rate levels, and rate of return. ORA's mission, as defined by Senate Bill 960 in 1996 and embodied in Public Utilities Code Section 309.5, is to "obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels."

Original Cost: The actual cost of property to the party who first dedicated it to public use as utility property.

ORTS – Optional Residential Telephone Service: A measured rate service available either to specific communities or to all communities within a specified radius of 40 miles which is available to residents of the San Francisco , Los Angeles , and Orange County metropolitan areas.

OSP – Operator Services Provider: Independent companies offering telephone service on a local or toll (long distance) basis, in competition with local telephone companies.

OSS - Operations Support System: The system that performs management, inventory, engineering, planning and repair functions for communication service providers and their networks.

OT – Offered Traffic: The number of call attempts in any specified period of time.

Overdraft: Removal of groundwater by pumps and wells more rapidly than it is naturally replenished; groundwater "mining".

Ozone: A highly reactive form of oxygen used to disinfect water.


PBOP – Post-Retirement Benefits Other Than Pensions: A term used in calculating revenue and expenditures for utilities.

Peak-load Plant: A plant usually housing old, low-efficiency steam units; gas turbines; diesels; or pumped-storage hydroelectric equipment normally used during the peak-load periods.

PG&E - Pacific Gas and Electric Company: One of the largest combination natural gas and electric utilities in the U.S. The company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation, serves approximately 15 million people throughout a 70,000-square-mile service area in northern and central California . On the Internet at

PBR – Performance-Based Ratemaking:  Under performance-based ratemaking, non-fuel costs are indexed to changes in inflation and customer growth, minus a productivity target, such that base rates to customers would be expected to decline in real terms.

PCN – Personal Communications Network: These include cellular, wireless, and cordless communication.

PCS – Personal Communications Services: New wireless services that feature "number portability," or the means to be contacted anywhere on a single number and that will be competitors in the future to cellular carriers.

PCS – Personal Communications Systems:  A generic term for mass-market mobile phone service

PD - Proposed Decision: A PUC Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) prepares a Proposed Decision at a proceeding's conclusion that the Commissioners vote on.

PDA – Personal Digital Assistant:  A handheld device that combines computing, telephone and Internet

Peak Demand: The maximum level of use by customers of a system during a specified period of time; may apply to a class of customers only or the entire company, depending on the intended use of the data.

Peaking Capacity: Capacity of generating equipment normally reserved for operation during the hours of highest daily, weekly, or seasonal loads. Some generating equipment may be operated at certain times as peaking capacity and at other times to serve loads on an around-the-clock basis.

Pelagic: Of, or pertaining to, the seas or oceans; fish, such as herring, living at the surface of large bodies of open water.

Penstock: Steep gradient pipe or channel for gravity acceleration of water for driving electric generators in hydroelectric plants.

Peripheral Equipment: Separate units or devices connected to a computer, such as printers.

Permit: Authority to operate issued by the PUC to telephone carriers who by statute are not regulated as public utilities.

Petitioner: Any party who files a petition in a PUC proceeding, such as a petition to modify a Commission decision, or a petition to intervene in a proceeding.

PGA – Purchased Gas Account:  A rate-adjustment mechanism that allows an energy utility to recover through rates its fuel and fuel-related expenses.

PGC – Public Goods Charge:  A non-bypassable surcharge imposed on all retail sales to fund public goods research, development and demonstration, and energy efficiency activities, and support low-income assistance programs.

PGT – Pacific Gas Transmission:  A natural gas pipeline system that runs to the Canadian border provides direct access to Canadian gas supplies.

PH: A measure of the acidity in the water.

PHC – Prehearing Conference: A formal PUC hearing at which the parties determine the scope and nature of a proceeding and at which the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) establishes a schedule for the proceeding.

PIC – Primary Interexchange Carrier: The PIC is the main long distance carrier used for "1+dialing" through which all interstate long distance toll calls are made.

Plant-Use Electricity: The electric energy used in the operation of a plant. This energy total is subtracted from the gross energy production of the plant; for reporting purposes the plant energy production is then reported as a net figure. The energy required for pumping at pumped-storage plants is, by definition, subtracted, and the energy production for these plants is then reported as a net figure.

PM – Average Profit Margin: Operating revenues less operating expense divided by operating revenue.

PM10: Particulate Matter (smaller than 10 microns)

PN – Public Notice:  A Public Notice is issued by the PUC to notify the public of an action taken or an upcoming event.

POD – Presiding Officer's Decision: A ruling in a proceeding issued by a PUC Administrative Law Judge.

POI: Point of Interconnection.

Point of Diversion: The place along the stream channel where a diverter takes control of the water.

Pollutants: Substances that enter the environment or become concentrated within it, and that has or may have a detrimental biological effect, whether by natural causes or resulting from human activity.

POLR - Provider of Last Resort: Serves as a back-up electric service provider in the competitive retail electric market in the event a retail electric provider leaves the market for any reason.

Pooling: An informal name for a settlement process in which all participating companies first receive their costs and then earn the same rate of return.

Potable Water: Water suitable for drinking.

POU – Public-Owned Utility: A utility owned by its customers, who elect the organization's board of directors.

Power: The rate at which energy is transferred. Electrical energy is usually measured in watts. Also used for a measurement of capacity.

Power Marketers: Business entities engaged in buying, selling, and marketing electricity. Power marketers do not usually own generating or transmission facilities. Power marketers, as opposed to brokers, take ownership of the electricity and are involved in interstate trade. These entities file with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for status as a power marketer.

Power Pool: An association of two or more interconnected electric systems having an agreement to coordinate operations and planning for improved reliability and efficiencies.

PPA – Power Purchase Agreements: Agreements between utilities and power generators to procure power on behalf of the utility's consumers.

PPH – Public Participation Hearing: PUC hearings at which statements from the general public are taken.

Price Cap Indexing Mechanism: The formula for setting local telephone company rates; the formula updates revenues each year based on inflation and expected productivity improvements, plus or minus factors beyond the company's control.

Primary Treatment: The first level of treatment given to sewage to remove solids.

Prime Carrier: A certificated or permitted motor carrier that engages other carriers or subhaulers.

Printout: Hard copy; the printed roll or pages of information transmitted by a computer to a printer.

Private Line (Leased Line): A telephone line allowing unlimited service between two points at a special rate and not connected to the regular telephone network.  Private lines are available for a number of uses, such as data transmission, fire and burglar alarm circuits, as well as voice transmission.

Private Water Utility: A water service that is owned by individuals or a corporation and sells water to customers.

Protestant: A party who files a protest to an application or other filing by another party.

Protozoa: Microscopic animals causing disease in humans.

Psia - Pounds per square inch absolute:  Equal to gauge pressure plus local atmospheric pressure.

PSTN – Public Switched Telephone Network:  A domestic telecommunications network usually accessed by telephones.

Public Trust Doctrine: The legal doctrine that protects the rights of the public to use watercourses for navigation, commerce, fisheries, recreation, open space, preservation of ecological units in their natural state, and similar uses for which those lands are uniquely suited. It is based on the California State Constitution and goes back to English Common Law. The California Supreme Court state, "The state has an affirmative duty to take the public trust into account in the planning and allocation of water resources, and to protect public trust uses whenever feasible."

Pub. Util.: Public Utilities.

PUC Code: The laws, rules, regulations and standards governing utilities in the state of California .


QF – Qualifying Facility: A cogeneration facility or small power production plant that can sell its electricity to public utilities.

Quantity Rates: Rates that apply to the use of the commodity, such as water, and area based on the cost of the commodity and other operating costs.

Queue: A temporary delay in providing service caused by the inability of the system, or call center, to handle the number of messages or calls attempted.

Quorum: A majority of the PUC Commissioners


Last Modified: 1/28/2008

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