The California Public Utilities Commission on April 22 slapped Southern California Edison with $676,000 in penalties for safety violations that resulted in five fatalities and more than 20 injuries. The fines stemmed from a 2001 investigation that was stalled in part because of a legal challenge by the utility. The probe looked at Edison?s electric line construction, operation, and maintenance practices from 1998 through 2000. The utility maintained that because regulators had never before penalized utilities for the behavior in question, it should warn them before taking such action. But commissioner Susan Kennedy, who crafted the sanctions, was not moved. ?Edison knew or should have known of violations,? she said. Along with the fines, the utility was ordered to find fixes for 60 safety violations. Also at the meeting, a rulemaking was launched to nail down renewables portfolio standard (RPS) ground rules so the process can start by July. To meet this time line, the commission must address all or most items on an ambitious ?to do list? for each utility. This list includes quantifying the amount of renewable generation in utilities? energy portfolios, establishing annual procurement targets in 2004, adopting standard green power contract conditions, coming up with a benchmark price for green power, and providing a method to rank bids according to least cost. Paul Clanon, Energy Division director, said that draft decisions on standard contract terms and a renewables price benchmark should be out in June. The RPS standard requires utilities to increase green power to 20 percent by 2017. The commission is attempting to accelerate that to a 2010 deadline, recommended by the interagency Energy Action Plan. By its accounts, Edison is in strong shape on the renewables front. The utility claims that last year 17.7 percent of its procurement came from green power. According to Julie Fitch, energy adviser to commission president Michael Peevey, Edison had more renewables in its energy mix than the other private utility before the RPS started. Being in rulemaking mode, commissioners also opened a proceeding to refine methods of calculating costs utilities avoid through power purchases from qualifying facilities, energy efficiency, and other measures, otherwise known as ?avoided costs.? Both of the new rulemakings will be part of the commission?s mother of all rulemakings meant to whip into shape key proceedings (see <i>Circuit<\/i>, April 9, 2004). The overall goal is to come up with apples-to-apples comparisons of energy resources, said Clanon. He noted that QF avoided-cost calculations have been ?problematic.?