CPUC Seeks Info from Merchant Generators

California regulators have appealed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for help in completing the state's investigation of prices paid in the state's wholesale electricity market this past summer.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is contending the generators are holding back pertinent information. The generators argue they will provide the information, but the CPUC has to provide sufficient protections against the information being leaked to competitors.

"We have given that same information to FERC and it used the information to conclude that there was no inappropriate behavior on the part of generators," said Duke Energy's California spokesperson, Tom Williams. "We haven't given (the same) information to the CPUC because it has not come up with a meaningful confidentiality protection agreement. We asked them to do that, and they have come back with something that was not at all appropriate. It would have enabled them to share the information with other state agencies, which would have made the information public.

"We would happily provide the information to the CPUC if it would come up with a meaningful protective order to keep the information confidential. We have been cooperating with the CPUC ever since the Bay Area blackouts (last June) even though they don't regulate us. We have actually held meetings with the CPUC staff (at its request) to explain how competitive markets work."

A Houston-based spokesperson for Reliant Energy echoed the same sentiment and said his firm will be filing something at FERC on Friday, following the commission's public hearing on California's electricity market the day before. The information being sought is "very sensitive proprietary data," the spokesperson said.

In its FERC motion, the CPUC requested that "given the urgent nature" of its investigation FERC shorten time for responding from the normal 15 days and provide answers by Thursday (Nov. 9).

The CPUC further requested: "(1) that the FERC adopt a protective order that permits inter-agency sharing of information while protecting the confidentiality of information provided to the CPUC by generators; (2)ÿthat the FERC treat the CPUC's subpoenas to the generators as if they were requests for production of documents issued pursuant to its rules/practices in these consolidated proceedings; and (3) that the FERC order the generators to produce responsive documents to a narrow subset of the subpoenaed categories of documents, as detailed below, no later than five working days after the FERC issues its order compelling production."

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