The California Public Utilities Commission unanimously agreed to measures aimed at increasing access to demand-response programs, including the wholesale market program run by the grid operator. With no discussion, regulators Dec. 5 unanimously approved some requested changes to the program seeking to reduce energy load by non-residential customers, particularly at peak periods. “A streamlined process will facilitate customer participation in demand response,” states the revised rulemaking by administrative law judge Kelly Hymes. Under the changes, businesses under the “critical peak pricing” program—giving kWh discounts for off-peak energy use in exchange for steep on-peak prices to curb energy use when demand is high—can automatically switch to other demand-response programs, although notice is required. Regulators also agreed to add language as urged by demand response providers to reduce “anti-competitive behavior” by utility staff, affiliates and contractors—specifically limiting the sharing of information on demand response. The ruling notes that “competitive neutrality is necessary to ensure a level playing field.” In related news, a dismayed commissioner Mark Ferron told his colleagues that the commission-approved effort to draw private capital investment into California’s energy efficiency market pilot hit a major roadblock. Regulators agreed Sept. 19 to establish with the State Treasurer’s California Alternative Energy & Advanced Transportation Financing Authority a “standardized open market state office” to promote efficiency retrofits (Current, Sept. 19, 2013). Ferron reported that financing to fund the Authority’s work to concentrate market funding for efficiency was denied by a key joint legislative committee. “We are already way behind schedule,” Ferron complained. He added that efforts to get legislative approved funding to allow the office to come to fruition continue. Regulators previously authorized ratepayer funding of $75 million through 2014 for efficiency measures to existing buildings.