Edison Seeks ‘Confidential’ Market Data Protection

By Published On: June 8, 2007

Southern California Edison is seeking to prevent the California Energy Commission from publicly disclosing what it claims is market sensitive information in the 2007 Integrated Energy Policy Report. Edison contends that forecasts of its supply, demand, retail electricity prices, and nuclear power plant outages should be kept confidential as privileged trade secrets. Protection is needed, Edison claims, to prevent power marketers and suppliers from driving up the price of electricity the utility purchases on behalf of its customers. “The reason we’re here is that we have a legitimate and serious concern,” said James Polish, Edison attorney, at a pre-trial conference June 6 before the Energy Commission. The conference came in the utility’s appeal. Edison challenged CEC executive director B.B. Blevins’ denial of the utility’s confidentiality requests. Blevins concluded that releasing the information would not compromise the company. The commission scheduled a hearing on the utility’s appeal on July 11. Edison had asked the Energy Commission to keep the information confidential, claiming it was one and the same with data the California Public Utilities Commission exempts from public disclosure to prevent market manipulation that can harm ratepayers. The Energy Commission sharply disagreed with the CPUC’s exemption decision a year ago, which granted utilities confidentiality protections aimed at preventing the kind of price manipulation that caused the power price spikes seen during the 2000-2001 energy crisis. The Energy Commission criticized the CPUC for “shrouding in secrecy” energy demand and supply forecasts and other critical information, thus restricting public participation in energy policy making (Circuit, June 30, 2006). “I realize that the CPUC and the CEC have different standards,” Polish conceded. “This is a lesser standard because the standard here is whether Edison can make a reasonable claim that this information is protected by a trade secret privilege.” However, Energy Commission counsel Fernando De Leon praised the commission staff for making “tremendous progress” over the 2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report cycle in reducing the confidentiality appeals to just Edison’s. Pacific Gas & Electric settled its appeal with the CEC prior to the meeting. In other business, the Energy Commission extended the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s contract for demand-response research under the Public Interest Energy Research program for three more years with $5 million in additional funding. LBL is conducting research into automated communications and control technology for industrial and commercial end users and other demand-response technologies and behavior. Over 45 facilities in northern California are participating in the project. The Energy Commission also approved a $400,000 contract with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District for an electricity energy storage system designed to reduce peak load and defer the need for new substations for urban light rail transportation systems. The Sacramento Regional Transportation Agency and the Department of Energy are providing over $750,000 in matching funds for the project. The air-cooled system will absorb energy from the trains as they slow down now given off as waste heat. SMUD estimates that there are 300-400 potential applications for the technology in California alone.

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