Sacramento Bee Opinion Editorial: PUC is looking out for utility customers

March 1, 2018 

By: Gary Passmore 

In a win for all utility customers, especially seniors on fixed incomes, the California Public Utilities Commission recently voted unanimously to require all power providers to demonstrate they have enough energy to meet their customers’ needs.

While the requirement is in state law, a quirk in current regulations allowed some Community Choice Aggregators – local governments that buy electricity – to start or expand service without meeting it.

Given that the CPUC resolution merely ensured regulations conform with state law, it was surprising to see two southern California county supervisors claim it would somehow thwart CCA growth and competition in the energy marketplace. (“Why are big utilities so afraid?” Viewpoints, Feb. 8).

Because some CCAs were not forecasting and assuming responsibility for future customers, this responsibility defaulted to utilities, forcing their customers to pay for power capacity the CCAs didn’t purchase. This unfair cost-shifting is also against state law.

The scare tactics by local government officials are not constructive. They prevent thoughtful policy dialogue necessary to ensure energy choice can be sustainable. Energy choice that imposes requirements on only certain energy providers, or costs on only certain energy customers, is not sustainable. It’s also not fair.

That’s why we have formed Equitable Energy Choice for Californians, a coalition of more than 100 organizations representing seniors, veterans, low-income, labor, business and other energy customers who support more choices in energy providers but want to ensure those choices don’t result in costs being unfairly shifted from some customers to others or at the expense of reliable energy.

Gary Passmore is president of the Congress of California Seniors.