In a pair of orders issued the same day, the California Public Utilities Commission has denied requests to modify its plan for electric industry restructuring, as set out in its Final Policy Decision of Dec. 20, 1995 (see 166 PUR4th 1), but has initiated new "public service programs" to continue support for energy efficiency and low-income assistance efforts.
So, on the one hand, the commission has reaffirmed its plan to grant direct access rights to electric consumers to choose power from a supplier of choice, but on the other, it has moved ahead to carry out provisions of the state's electric restructuring law (Assembly Bill 1890) that mandated continued support for "public interest" programs, appearing even to go beyond the requirements of the law by creating a new independent regulatory board to administer the benefit programs.
Direct Access. In the first case, the PUC rejected allegations that its "preferred policy" on restructuring was preempted by federal law (em i.e., the Federal Power Act, which prohibits states from ordering direct access. It also stated the guidelines do not violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by requiring the utilities to buy and sell power exclusively through a newly established power exchange.
Moreover, the PUC refused to accept the idea that its restructuring guidelines would amount to an economic taking of utility property without just compensation, because the PUC's plan had failed to ensure that utilities would recover all investment and had set up an independent system operator to occupy and control the electric transmission systems owned by utilities.