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California PUC Issues Final Rate Unbundling Order

Fortnightly Magazine - October 15 1997

Customer Bills. The PUC also told utilities what they must include on customer bills beginning with direct access Jan. 1, 1998. They'll have to include information on generation, transmission and distribution charges. Other components they'll need to address will involve public-purpose programs, energy efficiency programs, low-income services, the CTC and nuclear decommissioning. The power exchange will set electric prices, based on a weighted average of day-ahead and hour-ahead prices. The prices would be adjusted for administrative costs, settlements and other fees. Utilities have until June 1, 1998 to mail bills that include unbundled charges.

Customer Education. The commission approved a customer education plan that major utilities will use jointly to educate customers about industry restructuring and the choices available (Docket R.94-04-031/I.94-04-032).

The four major utilities will conduct the program with a $98-million budget. The cost will be recovered through rates. Electric rates are frozen at June 1996 levels, and residential and small commercial electric rates will drop 10 percent Jan. 1.

The PUC will evaluate the program regularly for effectiveness. By May 1998, it is expected that at least 60 percent of residential, small business, special needs customers and opinion leaders will recall information about electric industry changes and choices available. The utilities are responsible for meeting or exceeding that goal. For every percentage point below 60, three percent of the costs of the education program won't be recoverable in rates.

The PUC noted that while it's possible information will spill into areas served by municipal electric utilities, care must be taken not to mislead municipal customers into thinking they may choose alternate suppliers. (em LAB

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