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On March 11, 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly-scheduled agenda meeting. The agenda was again relatively brief; there were no significant telecommunications matters discussed at the meeting. The Commission did adopt important decisions in energy matters authorizing tradable renewable energy credits and expanding direct access. The next meeting will be April 8, 2010.
 


REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS
 


  • Tradable Renewable Energy Credits for the California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program Compliance (Item 32, adopted on regular agenda) The Commission adopted a decision authorizing the use of tradable renewable energy credits (TRECs) for use in the California Renewables Portfolio standard (RPS) program, which requires investor-owned utilities, energy service providers, and community choice aggregators operating in California to obtain 20 percent of the energy for retail sales from renewable sources by 2010. To do so, the Commission allows the unbundling of TRECs from the renewable energy units they represent. The opinion establishes a caps of $50.00 per TREC used by utilities for RPS compliance and a usage limit of 25% for TRECs used by the three large utilities for RPS compliance through 2011. Further, REC trading participants must meet requirements of the Western Renewable Generation Information System, the system through which all California RPS-eligible RECs must be tracked, as well as the eligibility rules of the California Energy Commission. Commissioner Simon characterized the limits as “training wheels” for the program. The draft decision upon which the Commission voted is available here
  • Increased Limits for Direct Access Transactions (Item 35, adopted on regular agenda) – The Commission increased the amount of Direct Access transactions within the service territories of California’s three largest investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs), pursuant to newly-enacted legislation. Direct Access allows eligible non-residential customers to purchase electricity from an independent Electric Service Provider rather than an IOU. According to the CPUC, about 5 percent of total retail sales in California are Direct Access transactions. The increased caps will be phased in over a four-year period, after which approximately eleven percent of total retail sales may be served by entities other than the IOUs. A recent draft of the proposed decision upon which the Commission voted is available here.    
  • Selection of Grant Recipients of the California Solar Initiative Research, Development, Deployment and Demonstration Program (Res. E-4317, Item 10, moved to and adopted on regular agenda) – This decision approved eight grants totaling up to $9.3 million in funding under the California Solar Initiative (CSI) Research, Development, Deployment, and Demonstration (RD&D) Program, which is focused on integration of photovoltaics (PV) into the utility grid. These eight grant recipients will bring over $6 million in matching funding to their projects from other funding sources. A recent draft of the resolution is available here
  • Status of Wireless Contract Late Payment Fees as “Rates” or “Terms and Conditions” (Item 44, moved to and adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission voted to accept a staff recommendation to file comments at the Federal Communications Commission stating that contractual late payment penalties charged by commercial mobile service providers are “terms and conditions” of service subject to state consumer protection laws rather than “rates charged” pursuant to Section 332(c)(3)(A) of the Communications Act over which states are preempted from regulating. A brief memorandum from the Legal Division on this issue is available here


SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS


  • Determination of Ratemaking Treatment for Rural Telephone Bank Stock Redemption Proceeds (Item 4, held until April 8, 2010) – The Proposed Decision in this matter would resolve the Small LECs’ application, prompted by previous Commission directives in certain Small LEC rate cases, to address “gain on sale” issues involved in stock redemptions associated with the dissolution of the Rural Telephone Bank. The Proposed Decision would depart from the Commission’s “gain on sale” rules by allocating the full value of redeemed RTB stock to ratepayers, including the value of patronage shares received by RTB borrowers, subject to jurisdictional adjustments. A fourth revised Proposed Decision made available just before the Commission meeting is available here.

NOTES AND COMMISSIONER REPORTS


  • Commissioner Simon’s Chief of Staff to Depart – Commissioner Simon reported that Natalie Wales, his chief of staff, had taken a position with a regulated water utility and would be leaving the Commission soon. In addition, Commissioner Simon provided a summary of his recent speaking engagements and other activities to promote the interests of the Commission.
  • Commissioner Grueneich Reappointed to the Low-Income Oversight Board – The Commission, upon the motion of President Peevey, unanimously voted to reappoint Commissioenr Grueneich to the Low-Income Oversight Board (LIOB). The LIOB advises the Commission on low-income electric and gas customer issues and serves as a liaison between the Commission and low-income ratepayers and representatives.
  • Ed Randolph Named Director of Government Affairs – Executive Director Clanon introduced Edward Randolph as the Commission’s new director of the office of governmental affairs and senior policy advisor for the California Public Utilities Commission. He has been chief consultant for the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee since 2003.

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