California regulators have issued a series of important rulings this spring as they continue to move forward with restructuring the state's electric utility industry.
On May 6, the California Public Utilities Commission accelerated the pace of its industry reform by ordering all electric utilities in the state to allow direct access to alternate electricity suppliers for all customers on Jan. 1, 1998. Other related rulings cover issues such as billing and metering, transactions with affiliates, the effect of restructuring on performance-based ratemaking measures and consumer education requirements.
Direct Access. After reviewing the direct-access proposals developed by the state's largest electric utilities (em Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison Co., and San Diego Gas and Electric Co. (em the commission found no technical constraint to an immediate start-up. It also noted that state legislation enacted while the commission was developing its restructuring policy permits all customers to choose suppliers; not just industrial customers or those served by the state's largest utilities.
The commission acknowledged the possibility of certain "commercial constraints," such as the ability of the utilities to process the initial round of direct-access requests. However, it found that market forces likely would limit the number of customers choosing the direct-access option during the formation of restructuring.