Roll Back the CPUC Attack on Our Communities!

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon

Action Alert --

Roll back the CPUC attack on our communities!

The Issue

California’s devastating wildfires set the stage for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to provide Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) a $6 billion bailout assist. Next, the CPUC will pass tens of billions in fire liability costs onto the public—propping up a monopoly utility the courts have found to be criminally negligent.

These actions are just the latest in a long line of CPUC failures to protect the interests of the people of California. They also coincide with the CPUC's latest attack—in a long string of attacks—on Community Choice energy, the state's expanding alternative to the monopoly utility model.

The CPUC recently approved a huge increase in a fee charged to the 11 million customers of Community Choice energy programs. The fee, called the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA), makes Community Choice customers pay for “departing load” costs incurred by the monopoly utilities. These costs are due to above-market prices the utilities have voluntarily and unnecessarily paid for electricity, which they then sell at a loss whenever customers switch to more attractive Community Choice programs.

Because the PCIA covers these losses, the utilities have no incentive to do better. In other words, the PCIA effectively shields the utilities from having to compete with Community Choice programs. The result: Community Choice customers are saddled with PCIA charges, and utility customers get over-priced electricity. This is the kind of mismanagement the CPUC is supposed to prevent, not promote.

Both the fire liability bailout and the PCIA fee hike reflect the CPUC's regulatory approach: socializing losses and privatizing profits. This approach rewards the state's three private monopoly utilities, raises rates for all ratepayers, and attacks the state's public, not-for-profit Community Choice programs – programs that are in the forefront of combating climate change.

Pull down to the Petition below. The Petition will be delivered to House and Senate leadership, with copies to all representatives, their key energy staffers, to the CPUC commissioners and staff.  

Some Background on PCIA

California’s 19 Community Choice energy programs provide important economic and environmental benefits to our communities. They are leading the state in meeting its climate goals and represent a compelling public alternative to the state’s private monopoly utilities.

Yet last October, in a move that undermines Community Choice energy, the CPUC approved a dramatic increase in the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA) fees levied on Community Choice customers. PCIA charges are arbitrary, unpredictable, ongoing “exit” fees that punish customers who have left their monopoly utility and are now Community Choice customers.

The CPUC’s dramatic fee hike has already begun to undermine Community Choice programs across California, while giving a handout to the monopoly utilities. This attack is contrary to law, to achieving the state’s climate goals, and to serving the public interest.

Even worse, this attack comes at a dangerous moment—the CPUC is propping up an outmoded, centralized, private monopoly electricity model, dependent on derelict and now vulnerable corporations. It is doing so while at the same time undermining the innovative, decentralized, public alternative that California needs to achieve a sustainable energy future.

Time to Take Action

Through all these attacks, the CPUC is propping up an outmoded, centralized private monopoly electricity model, based on derelict and now faltering corporations. It is obstructing the innovative, decentralized, public alternative energy model California is building to achieve a sustainable energy future.  

Like others across the country, Californians are demanding a different kind of deal -- a Green New Deal that strengthens our communities and invests in Community Choice to provide environmental, economic, and social justice benefits.

Join us in calling on California legislators to demand a rollback of the CPUC attack:

  • Demand that the CPUC suspend the October PCIA hike pending resolution of the procedural and legal deficiencies in the PCIA decision.

  • Demand that Governor Newsom hold the monopoly utilities accountable and appoint new CPUC commissioners and top staffers who support Community Choice and prioritize community interests.

Defeating the CPUC attack is essential to promoting a public alternative to the state’s monopoly utilities.

For a more in-depth analysis of this issue—the CPUC’s decision, the impact, what’s at stake, and the response—see our Backgrounder: Roll Back the CPUC Attack.

To: Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon
From: [Your Name]

On behalf of the organizations below, we request your action to end the CPUC's attack on our communities and on Community Choice.

This past October, CPUC commissioners unanimously adopted Decision 18-10-016. This Decision dramatically increases an arbitrary, unpredictable, and ongoing “exit” fee—the PCIA—on customers of California's 19 Community Choice agencies.

This action is just the latest and most egregious example of the CPUC's consistent pattern of bias* against Community Choice in favor of the monopoly utilities. It is contrary to state law (AB 117). It fails to hold utilities accountable for managing costs; it lacks transparency; and it accounts for utility-owned-generation costs in a way that may be wholly illegal.

The PCIA methodology imposed via the CPUC Decision threatens the viability of Community Choice programs. It has already had the following negative impacts:

-- Aborted and delayed programs – A new Community Choice program in San Luis Obispo/ Morro Bay aborted its launch. Desert Community Energy (San Bernardino) delayed its launch.

-- Increased electricity rates – Both CleanPowerSF and Valley Clean Energy (Davis) have been forced to increase customer rates, undermining their ability to compete with PGE.

-- Curtailed local investment – East Bay Community Energy expects to cut $13 million from its 2019 budget, including for local renewable energy development. Monterey Bay Community Power has pulled its distributed energy resource (DER) procurement entirely.

The CPUC has a duty under AB 117 to ensure that avoidable, unfair, anti-competitive costs are not shifted from the investor-owned monopoly utilities to Community Choice customers. Yet such a shift is precisely what Decision 18-10-016 did.

The dramatic increase in PCIA fees threatens the viability of Community Choice programs**. The CPUC’s October decision is also unfair to bundled rate payers, as utility ratepayers end up paying higher rates when the utilities are shielded by the PCIA from competition with more attractive Community Choice programs.

Because the CPUC Decision is particularly damaging to Community Choice programs, it thereby obstructs our fastest means of achieving the state’s climate targets. In this way, it does a major disservice to the public interest.

On behalf of our members, we, the undersigned organizations ask you to:

-- Demand the CPUC immediately suspend Decision 18-10-016, pending resolution of its procedural and legal deficiencies;

-- Call on Governor Newsom to appoint new CPUC commissioners and top staffers who support Community Choice and prioritize community interests.