Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission together with the California Energy Commission held an en banc hearing on the changing state of retail electric choice in California. In addition to presentations on community solar programs and California’s renewable energy portfolio standards, CPUC Staff presented its white paper, Consumer and Retail Choice, the Role of the Utility, and an Evolving Regulatory Framework.
Panelists from the hearing included, Marcel Hawiger of The Utility Reform Network (TURN), who presented findings on the motivation for retail competition, specifically how Direct Access (conventional retail choice) differs from CCA (which is commonly referred to as municipal aggregation in other states). TURN’s position is that retail competition should not be reopened until there is a workable plan that meets a 50%+ renewable energy future. Ron Perry spoke on behalf of Commercial Energy, a competitive energy supplier in California. Perry said he believes that lessons learned from the state’s competitive natural gas market, including transparent pricing, assets owned by independent companies, and assignment of capacity, can be used to create a safe and workable retail electric market.
Following the hearing, CPUC president, Michael Picker, issued an email request informal public comments on the CPUC Staff white paper, and on the questions posed to the panelists at the en banc hearing. ACCES filed comments, including the results from its recent survey that found that consumers are largely in favor of choice. It is the position of ACCES that an educated consumer base which understands the full range of energy choices available and can make informed decisions on their own behalf is vital to strengthening the overall energy market, and in its comments, ACCES offered the CPUC full use of its educational materials.