Commission (CPUC) moved a tortured step closer to deciding how it will reform its regulation of the
state's electric utilities when it
adopted a Proposed Policy Decision in its proceeding on competition by a 3-to-1 vote on May 24. The Proposed Decision retreats from the free-market approach the CPUC took when it presented its "Blue Book" proposal in April 1994. Indeed, the Proposed Decision amounts to a tacit admission that the CPUC cannot accomplish the task of implementing competition, and begins a transfer of the task from regulators to legislatures. Competition will, thus, evolve more slowly than if the CPUC had followed the course envisioned by the Blue Book; however, the delay is unlikely to have much effect on the ultimate emergence of competition, which is driven by technological and economic forces beyond the control of regulators.
What is the New Proposal?
In contrast with the CPUC's original Blue Book proposal, the Proposed Decision revolves around the sponsorship of a pool, which would create a spot market and operate the state's transmission facilities, much like the U.K. pool. The pool would be operated by an "independent" entity. Sellers participating in the pool would make bids offering their capacity in half-hour or hourly increments, and participating buyers would enter bids to purchase power for similar intervals. The pool operator would accept enough offers to meet the demand, and the price paid to sellers for a particular interval would equal the highest offering price of the accepted bids. The three major utilities in the state would be required to belong to the pool and would sell all of their power to the pool. IPPs, municipals, and out-of-state utilities would be encouraged to sell power to the pool, but not required to do so.