The California Public Utilities Commission reversed itself behind closed doors and voted to reject the controversial industrial solar power agreement between TrueSolar and Southern California Edison. The 4-1 vote taken during a closed session on May 6 accepted The Utility Reform Network?s petition for rehearing and concluded that the 5 MW project was not the least-cost alternative and deviated from the utility?s solicitation criteria. CPUC member Carl Wood was the sole dissenter. The original decision was controversial because CPUC president Michael Peevey was formerly a TrueSolar official and the terms of the deal were secret until the commission approved it in early December. In addition, fuel was added to the fire when <i>Energy Circuit<\/i> revealed those costs?which were 44 cents\/kWh. The CPUC initially rejected TURN?s petition for a rehearing on the pricey power-purchase agreement (see <i>Circuit<\/i>, Dec. 5, 2003). The decision states that the TrueSolar deal could be rebid under the upcoming emerging renewables procurement. It also clarifies that the commission?s tentative ?reasonableness benchmark? of 5.37 cents\/kWh includes both energy and capacity payments. Even after the initial controversy over the mystery of the deal, the CPUC?s decision making remains clouded in secrecy. The reversal was made in private because all commission rehearing decisions could lead to litigation, and thus an exception to the Open Meetings Act applies, said Randy Wu, CPUC general counsel. In addition, discussions about the ramifications of accepting or rejecting a rehearing petition are protected by attorney-client privilege. Wu added that the decision released last week is not ?a black box? but lays out some of the commissioners? reasoning. In contrast, the California Energy Commission makes its rehearing and reconsideration decisions out in the open. Earlier this month, for example, CEC members voted to change their minds about whether to reconsider exempting a small Modesto Irrigation District project from the commission?s permitting process. The agency?s general counsel told commissioners during a public business meeting that a petition for reconsideration did not apply to small power plant exemptions (see <i>Circuit<\/i>, May 7, 2004). ?Most if not all rehearing matters are considered in open session,? said CEC counsel Jonathan Blees. However, if litigation were pending or deliberations involved certain procedures under the Administrative Procedures Act, then the commissioners would discuss the matter in closed session. ?I am sure the CPUC has legitimate reasons for handling the legal affairs the way it does,? he added. Edison will not challenge the reversal, said utility spokesperson Gil Alexander. When asked about the status of its renewables procurement issued last fall, Alexander said, ?We are very encouraged by the response.? He declined to state the number of bids or amount of power at issue. He noted that a similar solicitation in the fall of 2002 led to a 4 percent increase in the utility?s renewable supplies and expects this round to also add ?significant? amounts of green resources.