Commissions Butt Heads over Confidentiality

By Published On: October 7, 2005

The California Public Utilities Commission should stamp the utilities’ planning data as “public” and allow exceptions to that rule only when justified, states the California Energy Commission. In an October 3 petition to intervene in the CPUC’s rulemaking revising its admittedly outdated confidentiality rules, the CEC insists its sister agency not cave in to utility demands to make confidentiality the rule and public disclosure the exception. The CPUC insists that market-sensitive data be deemed secret to keep the lid on power contract costs (Circuit, Sept. 16, 2005). The CEC, during its development of the updated 2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report, pushed hard against Pacific Gas & Electric’s, Southern California Edison?s, and San Diego Gas & Electric’s efforts to keep some planning and procurement data away from the public’s eyes. In June, Edison sued the Energy Commission to keep its annual peak-demand forecasts out of the public arena. The three utilities are expected to sue the CEC over its decision last month to release aggregated customer data. “The CPUC?s willingness to allow the [investor-owned utilities] to assert the confidentiality of various kinds of planning data without making appropriate demonstration of the facts and analyses to support such assertions must cease,” argues the CEC’s petition. Utilities assert that releasing information they consider market-sensitive would give bidding generators the competitive advantage in contract negotiations. The Energy Commission rejects utilities’ assertions that secrecy is needed to avoid giving third-party generators information that could drive up ratepayers’ costs. Much of the information at issue in the CPUC’s proceeding to overhaul its confidentiality framework is used by the CEC in its resource-adequacy assessments. The CEC notes that “vast quantities” of utility information at issue are already public. Thus, it should not be put behind closed doors during its sister agency’s process, the CEC argues. According to the CEC, confidentiality claims bog down the planning process because they are “consuming and burdensome.” It “believes a robust public policy to guide procurement of resources by the investor-owned utilities cannot be developed through proceedings in which the essential facts and foundational analyses have been examined only in confidence.” However, it also acknowledges that some kinds of operating data should be kept secret to protect utilities and their customers. The comment period on the CEC’s petition ends October 18.

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