California to Unify Energy Policy and Planning to Ward Off Future Energy Crisis
In two different forums, California government entities continue to implement changes reacting to the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001. Each of these initiatives is aimed at unifying energy policy and planning in California.
On May 8, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) became the last of three California energy agencies to approve an "Energy Action Plan." The Consumer Power and Conservation Financing Authority, commonly called the "California Power Authority" (CPA), and the Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, commonly called the "California Energy Commission" (CEC), were the first agencies to endorse the plan. The plan identifies six areas of action to ensure reliability and reasonably priced energy while emphasizing environmental concerns. In an unprecedented move, the CPA, CEC and PUC have committed to actively cooperate in implementing the following:
- Optimize energy conservation and resource efficiency
- Accelerate the state's goal for renewable generation
- Ensure reliable, affordable electricity generation
- Upgrade and expand the electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure
- Promote customer and utility owned distributed generation
- Ensure reliable supply of reasonably priced natural gas
PUC Commissioners Lynch and Wood dissented from the plan, especially its emphasis on competition and market forces. Lynch and Wood instead want to strengthen the regulated utilities and criticized the plan's goal "to work with FERC to redesign markets." Instead, they "oppose FERC's efforts to invade areas of state jurisdiction." They also felt the plan was too specific in voicing certain of its goals, without the benefit of an evidentiary record being developed in formal proceedings. For a copy of the Energy Action Plan, see the PUC's website at www.cpuc.ca.gov.
Separately on May 8, the California State Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce unanimously approved legislation (11 voting for, 3 absent) to establish a new Energy Agency. Bill AB 808, introduced by Bay Area assemblyman Joseph Canciamilla, would replace the CEC, the CPA and the policy-related activities of the PUC as well as abolish the Electrical Oversight Board. Given the multiplicity of and often unclear jurisdictional lines among the legislative and administrative bodies charged with responsibility for developing and implementing California energy policy, there have been previous attempts to centralize California energy policy. Last year's energy policy centralization bill (AB 1661) died in committee and other efforts did not get this far.
AB 808 would establish a cabinet level energy secretary appointed by the governor. To become law, the bill will next move to the Assembly's Appropriations Committee, the state Senate and the Governor's office. The bill has garnered support by Pacific Gas and Electric, the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Business Roundtable. The California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) opposes AB 808, pending the state's determination of the eventual electricity market structure. The CMUA is also insisting that any energy policy consolidation measure should limit (or eliminate) any continuing role for the ISO (California's independent system operator that controls access to electric transmission) in ensuring reliability. For a copy of the bill, and related analyses, see www.assembly.ca.gov.
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