CA Regulators Start Investigations of Gas, Electric Infrastructures
With growing inadequacies in both gas and electricity delivery
systems in California, state regulators have ordered separate
statewide investigations of both with an emphasis on the gas side
in Sempra Energy's territory in the southern end of the state.
The California Public Utilities Commission's upcoming review of
the electricity infrastructure, which duplicates some other efforts
around the state, is mandated by one of the electricity relief
measures (AB 970) passed by the state legislature last summer. The
natural gas investigation was prompted by an emergency request by
San Diego Gas and Electric Co. in the middle of the electricity
controversy to change its gas curtailment rules.
SDG&E withdrew its emergency request, which the CPUC showed
no sign of approving, last month, but the widespread protests the
request drew from merchant generators, environmental
groups/agencies and consumer groups raised "a number of questions
and issues that require further investigation by this commission,"
said Richard Bilas, the CPUC commissioner assigned to the utility
"We believe an investigation into the adequacy of SoCalGas's and
SDG&E's gas transmission systems is warranted," said Bilas,
noting that SDG&E since the early 1990s has been contemplating
serving the expanded electric generation load south of the border
in North Baja at Rosarita Beach.
"We are also extremely concerned that the decision to add load
on SoCalGas's and SDG&E's systems may have undermined
SDG&E's ability to provide reliable service to its customers,"
he said before the CPUC voted 5-0 for the statewide study.
CPUC President Loretta Lynch expressed strong support for the
investigation, noting "for the first time in almost a decade,
California is faced with the potential of insufficient natural gas
capacity. This was something that was inconceivable even a few
years ago. Certainly the dynamics of the natural gas market have
changed as well as the electricity market.
"In this investigation, I certainly intend to take a close look
at California's natural gas utility infrastructure to make sure
that they continue to meet the increasing demands for natural gas
The regulators unanimously passed the electricity investigation,
too, although there was one partial dissent from Commissioner Henry
Duque, who is concerned that part of the investigation duplicates
efforts by the Cal-ISO to bring temporary peaking generation into
the state by next summer, and that the CPUC is not acting swift
enough on utility requests for bilateral contracts, a side issue
of the infrastructure study.
Richard Nemec, Los Angeles
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