California Public Utilities Commission

Buying Into Solar

Rewards, challenges and options for rate-based investments.

Utilities traditionally have met renewable portfolio standards with power purchases from IPPs. But new approaches are allowing utilities to build their rate bases with investments in solar generation.

Green Contracting

Structuring renewable agreements to survive change.

The potential for a federal renewable energy standard (RES) and carbon regulation, considered with the effect of state-imposed renewable energy standards, is fueling a strong, but challenging, market for renewable energy. Utilities are competing to sign up the best new projects, the types of renewable technologies available are increasing, and there are various government stimulus programs for energy; yet, the financial markets still are hesitant. Against this backdrop, how should contracts for power from new renewable resources be shaped so that those deals will look as good five, 10 and 15 years after execution as on the day the ink dries?


The future looks bright for distributed PV.

The future looks bright for distributed photovoltaics. New technologies and government policies are driving a revolution in PV manufacturing. But a robust national distributed generation system requires a grid that can accept two-way control of electrons.

The Smart-Enough Grid

How much efficiency do ratepayers need—and utilities want?

When the applause dies down, the smart grid may turn out to be its own worst enemy. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) explained this irony in comments it filed in May, after the FERC asked the industry for policy ideas on the smart grid.

Tech Transition

Utility projects advance the state of the art.

Given this dynamic state of evolution, it’s not surprising that next-generation technologies are undergoing their own difficult transitions. This transition is exemplified by four high-tech projects being executed by four electric utilities: Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Consolidated Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. Their projects address different parts of the power-supply chain, and they’re taking different paths to secure financing and regulatory acceptance.

Dealing with Asymmetric Risk

Improving performance through graduated conditional ROE incentives.

Unlike the majority of performance-based regulation plans, alternative design paradigms require less data, by instead allowing firms to reveal performance potential. In an asymmetric environment, regulators don’t have needed information, but that can be overcome with better models and incentives.

Carbon and the Constitution

State GHG policies confront federal roadblocks.

So far, states have taken the lead in carbon-control strategies. These state actions, however, could lead to constitutional conflicts—as recent court battles demonstrate. Only the U.S. Congress can regulate interstate trade, so states must step carefully in controlling carbon leakage.

Making Efficiency Cool

A new business plan for capturing big saving.

Historically, conservation has suffered from a fundamental challenge: it’s boring. But as efficiency becomes the first fuel, providers of efficiency services will begin to look more like businesses and less like government agencies—characterized by dynamic branding, with marketing strategies driven by customer science.

Stabilizing California's Demand

The real reasons behind the state’s energy savings.

In 2006, the California legislature and governor positioned energy conservation and efficiency as the cornerstone of the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. The Act mandates a 2020 statewide limit on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels. Compliance will be nothing short of Herculean: California will have to reduce per capita energy usage in a manner that accommodates continued brisk population growth and protects the state’s economy from economic dislocations and recessionary pressures.

2008 ROE Survey - Rates, Risks & Regulators

Economic uncertainties raise doubts about utility returns.

(November 2008) Economic uncertainties are raising doubts over utility returns. Will regulators feel the need to consider broader economic effects when engaging in ratemaking? While reporting on this year’s rate cases, the author provides insight on what to expect as stock prices fall.