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The Buzz

18 Jul 2019


Editor's Note: California Current will be taking its two-week summer break beginning today, July 19. Story posting will resume the week of Aug. 5.

The California Public Utilities Commission gets a new President after Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Marybel Batjer to the post this week. Batjer will take over an agency that has lost much of its credibility with lawmakers and the public, the week’s Juice column observes...

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The Buzz

11 Jul 2019


Gov. Gavin Newsom successfully gets the Legislature to pass utility wildfire liability legislation, though lawmakers express reservations that it will do little more than buy time for yet unknown solutions.

This week’s Juice column opines that distributed energy may be needed to end utility-sparked wildfires, at least in fire prone areas of the state.

Inaction on processing intervenor compensation claims at the California Public Utilities Commission is threatening to drive the state’s premier ratepayer advocacy group into insolvency...

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The Buzz

27 Jun 2019


The California Public Utilities Commission announces it's considering slapping penalties on PG&E for sparking huge wildfires in the fall of 2017.

Earlier, state regulators unanimously approve a utility financial stress test with much consternation. They warn that the legislative mandate unfairly requires ratepayers to bail out utilities even if unacceptable behavior led to their wildfire liability...

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JUICE: Clean Car & Air Chaos

25 Jun 2019


If President Donald Trump follows through on his threat to yank California’s authority to enact automotive emissions and fuel efficiency standards that are tighter than federal requirements, the work of the Golden State and utilities here to promote electric vehicles and develop charging infrastructure will be jeopardized.

Not only will California's climate change goals be threatened, but so will the de-carbonization efforts of 13 other states and the District of Columbia, which have adopted California's clean car standards...

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The Buzz

14 Jun 2019


A House Energy panel zeros in on federal legislation and tactics to resolve the troubling issue of long-term storage of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. Lawmakers also grapple with how to consolidate onsite spent fuel in 121 communities, including in Southern California and Sacramento.

The day before, another House Energy & Commerce subcommittee tells Republican federal energy regulators that assessing greenhouse gas impacts of FERC project approvals is paramount, as is increased integration of distributed energy...

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JUICE: Sailing to Grid Regionalization

11 Jun 2019


The announcement by California’s transmission operator that it will become the regional coordinator, not only in its territory, but across big parts of the western grid beginning July 1 generated few headlines. However, the California Independent System Operator becoming the new high wires reliability cop on the beat from Northern Mexico to Canada is a big deal.

The latest move is another significant step towards CAISO becoming a regional grid operator...

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The Buzz

6 Jun 2019


As lawmakers contemplate a legislative course to deal with the mounting financial implications of wildfires, it’s increasingly evident that utility ratepayers will have to shoulder billions of dollars of costs.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders appear to rule out eliminating strict liability for utilities that spark wildfires, at least for now.

California’s developing all-electric building strategy could double natural gas bills for those who don’t replace their gas burning appliances, finds a new California Energy Commission study...

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The Buzz

30 May 2019


This week is all about measures to reduce the impacts of utility-sparked wildfires in California. In the midst of all the smoke, CPUC president Mike Picker says he’ll soon retire.

Earlier, he and other state energy regulators approve the investor-owned utilities’ 2019 plans to stem wildfire risks from their equipment. But, the CPUC notes, this is only step one.

The CPUC also adopts protocols for utility power shutoffs to improve their coordination with emergency safety agencies and notifications to impacted customers...

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Opinionated: Solar+Storage Challenges Gas Peakers

28 May 2019


By Fereidoon Sioshansi

Gas peakers have been around well before the recent rise of renewables made them even more indispensible. How else could grid operators fill in the void created by the vanishing solar generation when the sun sets at the end of the day or when wind stops spinning the wind turbines’ blades?

And with natural gas plentiful and cheap–especially in the U.S .– their place in the energy mix appeared safe...

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The Buzz

16 May 2019


It is better late than never for Southern California Edison, which finally gets its 2018-2020 rate case approved. State energy regulators okay a revenue requirement for 2018 of nearly $5.2 billion. Over the three-year period, Edison will reap a 4 percent increase, not counting recovery of its wildfire safety costs.

Utility regulators this week also refine standards for injecting biomethane into natural gas pipelines and approve several biomethane contracts for SoCal Gas...

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Opinionated:To CPE or Not To CPE

14 May 2019


By Steven Kelly

After many years of work, the California Public Utilities Commission earlier this year finally adopted a multi-year resource adequacy program to help ensure grid reliability. Now, the CPUC is considering additional changes to the adopted framework, particularly the insertion of a “central procurement entity” to mitigate the risk that the California Independent System Operator performs any resource adequacy procurement...

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The Buzz

9 May 2019


Lawmakers may need to create a $40 billion wildfire risk pooled insurance fund plus take other actions to deal with crushing wildfire liabilities and expenses faced by utilities as large power rate increases loom.

Amid rising revenue, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes budget boosts for the CPUC and grants to help communities plan for power shutoffs when high winds threaten to spark wildfires.

Meanwhile, utilities launch a new advertising campaign as they warn that power shutoffs when winds threaten wildfires will become routine...

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JUICE: Muddy Waters & Rates

30 Apr 2019


While passing through a corner of Nevada along Highway 395 during a drive to the Eastern side of the Sierra I was struck by the differences in the price of gasoline in the Golden and Silver states. Filling up in Nevada April 19, I paid $3.30 a gallon, saving well over a dollar per gallon. Returning home a few days later, I saved more than $2 a gallon buying gas in Nevada as the price in the eastern part of California had soared above $5...

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The Buzz

18 Apr 2019


A group of West Coast utilities launches a major study of how to develop and locate charging infrastructure for electric big rig trucks.

Federal energy regulators approve two LNG export projects, but the decisions omit their greenhouse gas impacts. Subsequently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s 2018 market report shows record U.S natural gas exports, while U.S. storage diminishes and prices rise, particularly in Southern California...

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Juice: Green Power vs. Green Jobs?

16 Apr 2019


The New Green Deal, a 14-page national resolution to clean up the environment and simultaneously address social inequity by creating new job opportunities and strengthening the social safety net, lacks the force of law. But, it is a powerful, timely idea and symbol that’s causing lots of people to cheer or chastise it.

Its potency stems from its effort to bring together environmental, social justice and labor advocates, who often have been adversaries...

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The Buzz

11 Apr 2019


Southern California Edison asks the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a 28 percent boost in its revenue requirement for transmission assets, saying that wildfire-related expenses justify the increase.

In Sacramento, a bill to set up a centralized backstop power purchaser clears a committee, but lawmakers have reservations about changing the existing order.

Another bill to boost distributed energy resources gains ground, although only after publicly owned utilities are exempted...

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The Buzz

4 Apr 2019


Bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric announces a new slate of directors. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s former chief is named the new CEO, with final voting to take place at the end of May.

California energy and waste regulators start to grapple with surging quantities of aging solar panels and batteries. Steps needed to avert a toxic tide include creating in-state disposal and reuse sites.

In this week’s guest column, Lorenzo Kristov, former CAISO market design principal, lays out a path for creating a deep green distribution system...

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The Buzz

28 Mar 2019


The California Independent System Operator adopts changes to its backstop procurement programs to address concerns they unnecessarily drive up costs. CAISO also adopts a new transmission plan, which shows only Pacific Gas & Electric needs to build new projects at a cost of up to $644 million to maintain reliability and control costs.

Gov. Gavin Newsom blasts PG&E's proposed slate of new board members...

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The Buzz

21 Mar 2019


Two federal energy regulators warn of litigation risks the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been creating with its deficient greenhouse gas impact assessments of commission-approved projects.

California’s top lawyer throws his weight behind the Bay Area Cities climate change suit against the oil majors. Also, it is mixed messages from FERC. The right wing chief of staff who publicly advocated for coal and nuke plant subsidies is out...

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Opinionated: Charging With the Sun

19 Mar 2019


By Severin Borenstein

You aren’t getting “green electrons”, but charging at the right times still lowers GHG emissions.

I spent a fascinating few days at the California Independent System Operator last month, following my appointment in January to the CAISO’s Board of Governors. The most exciting part was getting to visit the CAISO grid control room late on a Thursday afternoon as the sun was setting across much of California...

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