CPUC Decision Challenged in Court!

(07/2020) Early this month, the Local Clean Energy Alliance and other clean energy organizations supported a challenge in the California Court of Appeals to an October 2018 decision of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Such challenges are rare.

The decision being challenged—authored by Commissioner Carla Peterman (who subsequently joined Sothern California Edison as an executive vice-president)—dramatically increases the ongoing Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA) fees that Community Choice customers are forced to pay to PG&E simply because they no longer are buying their electricity from PG&E.

The Peterman Decision strongly favors PG&E and the state’s two other monopoly utilities over Community Choice programs and the communities they serve, which include the counties of Alameda, Marin, Sonoma, and San Francisco.

In a bold response, the Protect Our Communities Foundation in Southern California petitioned the Court of Appeals to reverse the Peterman Decision, pointing to its violations of state law and due process.

On July 1, the California Alliance for Community Energy filed an Amicus Brief supporting that petition. The Alliance is a statewide advocacy network launched by the Local Clean Energy Alliance several years ago. The Alliance Brief points to the damaging impacts on our communities of that Decision.

For example, the Brief argues the following points:

  • The Peterman Decision has dramatically shifted the burden of stranded utility-owned assets and stranded utility contracts onto Community Choice energy programs.
  • The Decision directly undermines the financial viability of Community Choice programs and their ability to provide programmatic benefits to their communities. In at least one case, the Peterman PCIA has discouraged a jurisdiction from establishing a Community Choice energy program.
  • These impacts violate the intent of AB 117 (which created Community Choice) to provide financial benefits to customers through low-cost energy and to provide a fair competitive playing field for Community Choice energy programs. By causing significant harms to Community Choice energy programs, the Decision also undermines the leadership these programs provide in fulfilling state energy and climate mandates and in addressing local community energy needs in the wake of utility-caused wildfires and power shutoffs.
  • The Decision endorses and promotes the efforts of the state’s three monopoly utilities to eliminate Community Choice as a competitive alternative to their monopolies. In adopting the Decision, the CPUC has collaborated with the monopoly utilities in violating AB 117’s mandate that the utilities must “co-operate fully” with Community Choice programs.
  • The Decision is the strongest expression of an established pattern of the CPUC undermining Community Choice in favor of the monopoly utilities.

In short, the Brief argues that, in approving the Peterman Decision, the CPUC has (1) restricted the autonomy of Community Choice programs provided for by AB 117, (2) threatened the financial viability of Community Choice as a competitive public option, and (3) undermined Community Choice as a powerful vehicle for addressing the climate crisis.

Hopefully the Court will consider these arguments and reject the Peterman Decision.