CPUC Redraws Private Data Access Line

By Published On: July 15, 2011

Regulators approved 4-0 a decision setting parameters to protect market sensitive data that can affect power prices July 14. Simultaneously, regulators attempted to address calls for transparent decision making. “It gives all parties a roadmap going forward for commission proceedings,” said Mike Peevey, the California Public Utilities Commission president. He added that the matter at hand has a “tortured past.” The commission was responding to enacted legislation, SB 1488, requiring that the agency’s decision making be open to allow for meaningful public participation. The presumption is the more transparent the hearings, the better the process. That effort was balanced against investor-owned utilities’ insistence that data related to energy and gas transactions, including power plant sales, must be kept secret to avoid market manipulation--a la Enron during the 2000-01 energy crisis. Under rules adopted this week, only outside lawyers, consultants, and other representatives of market participants may engage in CPUC energy proceedings. Strict limits are placed on them, including that they not supervise or be supervised by a power producer that is involved in electricity or gas transactions. “There shouldn’t be a special set of rules” for non utility representatives, said Jan Smutny-Jones, Independent Energy Producers executive director. He said the new confidentiality rules were an improvement over existing ones but that his members are considered guilty until proven innocent. The limitations, Smunty-Jones added, infringe on non-utility representatives’ access to facts at issue in CPUC hearings. Peevey’s ruling also calls for an “ethics wall” to be placed between outside representatives of generator and trading companies. Utilities, energy producers, and traders are to work together to update the commission’s model protective order. They also are to jointly rework non-disclosure agreements geared towards setting clear boundaries to protect the confidentiality of “sensitive” market data, which is seen as information that can drive up ratepayer bills.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now