It\u2019s time for the California Public Utilities Commission to weigh in on investor-owned utilities\u2019 $5.5 billion worth of blockbuster smart grid plans. The expensive plans promise greater efficiency in energy use and environmental benefits, yet lack specificity and could grease the skids for spending ratepayer money with little review. In general, utilities see the smart grid as an evolving landscape and argue that the commission should extend flexibility when it comes to plan implementation. Utilities don\u2019t want to be hemmed in on timing of investments or precluded from modifying course in an arena that\u2019s subject to swift technological change. Last summer, utilities characterized their plans as largely conceptual when they introduced them (Current, July 8, 2011). The plans, according to Southern California Edison attorney Kris Vyas, \u201care intended for high-level policy guidance rather than project selection and approval.\u201d To maintain their footing on the rapidly changing smart grid field, utilities want the commission to handle spending approval on individual program elements through a simple application process and not have to regularly update their plans, which cover the remainder of the decade. The Division of Ratepayer Advocates, on the other hand, prefers to see the plans sent back to the drawing board to be redrafted with greater specificity and then have the commission handle expenditures through general rate cases every three years. The division also wants specific cost-effectiveness tests for individual projects. \u201cCost effectiveness has taken a back seat in this proceeding,\u201d wrote division attorney Lisa-Marie Salvacion in a March 22 filing with the commission. Third-party players, like EnerNoc, want the commission to carve out a guaranteed market on the customer side of the meter for their smart grid-enabled services, like automated management of home energy use and demand response and energy efficiency programs. Utilities aren\u2019t ready to cede any market territory yet, preferring that the commission further study any such \u201cline of demarcation\u201d and handle questions about who can provide what services on a case-by-case basis as they arise. EnerNoc attorney Sara Steck Myers called this approach \u201csub-optimal from a policy perspective.\u201d In a March 15 filing, she urged the commission to give \u201cdirection encouraging third-party participation to the greatest extent possible\u201d in the state\u2019s smart grid. Without keen third-party participation, she wrote, lack of competition is likely to stymie \u201cthe market for smart grid services.\u201d In a March 1 report, commission staff recommended approval of the gargantuan utility smart grid plans \u201cwithout changes.\u201d Staff urged that remaining issues be worked out in the context of utility smart grid annual reports.