The California Public Utilities Commission has ruled that it will not phase in direct access at different times for different customer groups, but will allow all customers, regardless of classification or amount of electricity used, to choose their energy supplier in less than two years.
"There will be no phase-in or pilot-program period for the opening of California's electricity market. In just eight months we go from a regulated monopoly to open competition in one big bang," said John Seidl, president and CEO of CellNet Data Systems Inc.
The PUC said that starting Jan. 1, 1998, all competitors can offer electric service to customers of Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, Kirkwood Gas & Electric, PacifiCorp, Sierra Pacific Power Co., and Southern California Water Co. Customers will have two direct-access options. They may purchase power from competing nonutility retail electric service providers such as brokers, marketers, aggregators, or other retailers, or through direct contracts with electric generators (Docket R.94-04-031/I.94-04-032).
Utilities, which will be called "utility distribution companies" in the new market, can begin accepting direct-access requests on Nov. 1, 1997. Requests for direct access from customers who have at least 50 percent of their electrical load supplied by a renewable resource provider will be processed first.
Customers with a maximum demand of 20 kilowatt-hours or more must have a minimum of hourly metering. The PUC acknowledged it would take years to provide hourly interval meters for all 10 million electric customers in the state. Customers using less than 20 kWh can participate either by installing an hourly meter or by load profiling. Load profiling approximates how much electricity a customer class or group of customers uses hourly over a given period. If profiling is used, the customer is billed according to the authorized load profile for that type of customer, instead of being billed for actual use.
Utilities have until July 1, 1997 to file their direct-access plans. The PUC said it would accept or reject the plans by Sept. 17.
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