CA Energy Panel Delays Gas, Energy Trends Action

To allow more public and stakeholder input, the California Energy Commission postponed until next month issuing a report on state electricity and natural gas trends. The report was requested by the legislature along with a separate, higher profile report on natural gas infrastructure issues, which also will be delayed.

Utilities and energy companies complained to the commissioners that the trends report was not handled with the same comprehensive review process as the natural gas document. The commissioners unanimously decided to delay action until Sept. 5 on the state electricity and natural gas trends report and circulate drafts more widely to stakeholders.

While generally expressing support for the 111-page draft "Natural Gas Infrastructure Issues" report, the utilities and a representative from the state regulatory commission urged the energy commissioners to add more emphasis on the impact of alleged market manipulation as contributing to in-state transmission pipeline bottlenecks.

In addition, Lad Lorenz, director of transmission/storage operations for Sempra Energy's two utilities, said that operations this year are not truly indicative of Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric Co.'s transmission systems, and that the SoCalGas transmission system by the end of the year will have sufficient "slack" or excess capacity.

"We have submitted a number of comments and will work with the staff to have those issues considered," said Lorenz, noting that one of the ideas that needs to be incorporated in the report is the need to move to more "long-term contracts between electric generators and the builders of (gas) infrastructure, rather than improving forecasts or changing the design criteria for consideration."

He said generally the report is "a good product; it just needs some more work."

Given the additional comments from the regulators and utilities, the energy commission decided to hold action on the natural gas infrastructure report until its Sept. 12 meeting.

The energy trends report, originally required by a 2000 state law, was described by commissioners as needing specific recommendations, which were called for in last year's law (SB 970). With the onslaught of the state's electricity crisis last winter, the development of the report was delayed because the unfolding events involved in the crisis have "substantially changed the projected trends," according to an energy commission staff member.

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