Seeking to wrest control of public relations for electric competition from private "stakeholders," the California Public Utilities Commission has authorized the state's three largest investor-owned electric utilities (em Pacific Gas and Electric Co., San Diego Gas and Electric Co. and Southern California Edison Co. (em to spend $89.3 million for consumer education on electric restructuring, through mass media, mail, local outreach and a toll-free call center.
In a separate order, the PUC authorized PacifiCorp and Sierra Pacific Power Co. to fund their own education programs with up to $180,000 and $80,000, respectively.
Earlier, the PUC had set up the Electric Restructuring Education Group (a body of stakeholders) to provide oversight for the development of the education programs. In its latest move, however, the commission says it has "reoriented" that strategy, which had been proposed by the utilities themselves to reduce advertising budgets and focus on community-based organizations for outreach efforts.
The PUC now says that the utilities must move quickly to take over the direct management of the statewide advertising efforts rather than have the Electric Restructuring Education Group continue to oversee and manage the program, especially in light of a prior order that had established an "awareness target" for program effectiveness, with a rate disallowance for utilities to enforce target goals. Re Proposed Policies Governing Restructuring California's Electric Services Industry, Decision 97-08-064, r.94-04-031, i.94-04-032, Aug. 1, 1997 (PG&E, SoCalEd, SDG&E); Decision 97-08-063, r.94-04-031, i.94-04-032, Aug. 1, 1997 (PacifiCorp, Sierra Pacific) (Cal.P.U.C.).