Direct Access, This Year?s Model

By Published On: February 17, 2004

The California Public Utilities Commission on February 11 continued its pet project of tweaking direct-access suspension rules by allowing electric service providers? customers to relocate loads to new accounts as long is there is no overall increase in load within the service territory. Though the issue was seemingly straightforward, the 3-2 vote reflects a continued divide among CPUC members over almost anything to do with direct access. Commissioner Susan Kennedy said direct-access suspension and rules implementing the halt were meant to be temporary measures that would likely be revamped or eliminated ?when the legislature decides whether direct access is coming or going.? She expected that to be within months. In the meantime, Kennedy said, her plan helps businesses that relocate by eliminating the requirement that they track and match load on an account-by-account basis. Direct-access customers will need to attest that relocations will not cause an increase in aggregate load. Commissioner Geoffrey Brown countered that he was unsure whether lifting direct-access suspension is a good idea, pointing to ?huge? stranded costs for these customers from Department of Water Resources long-term contracts. But he voted to approve Kennedy?s plan, along with she and commission president Michael Peevey. Rules were meant to keep direct access at suspension levels but not to cause it to ?wither away,? said attorney Dan Douglass, whose recommendations on behalf of Albertson?s, the Alliance for Retail Energy Markets, and the Western Power Trading Forum were granted by the commission. In other meeting news, capital additions of close to $32 million for Southern California Edison were approved for non-nuclear generation plants added to the utility?s rate base. The decision covers both divested plants and plants retained by the utility and prohibits potential double recovery of divested plant capital additions from ratepayers. An additional $31 million in capital additions to retained non-nuclear plants will be scrutinized in Edison?s general rate case.

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