CPUC Allows Affiliate Employees Free Range
California regulators last week (Aug. 6) liberalized the use of
utility employees in non-utility energy affiliate companies as part
of their action finalizing a set of rules on the interaction
between the state's three major electricity utilities and their
affiliated companies. With the advent of retail electric
competition each of the utilities have several unregulated
affiliates offering energy supplies and related services.
Setting aside staff suggestions of a ban against shifting
utility employees among affiliates and the regulated company, the
five-member California Public Utilities Commission decided to allow
utility employees to spend up to 30% of their annual time working
for affiliated, unregulated energy companies as long as the utility
is reimbursed for the full cost of the employee, plus premiums of
10 and 1%.
"The utilities basically got what they wanted," said a CPUC
staff member who was lobbying hard to have the CPUC allow only
permanent moves of at least one year for utility employees
transferring to an unregulated affiliate.
"It is a big blow to the separation rules. And it is going to be
very hard to keep track of this and enforce it."
Generally, the CPUC adopted individual compliance plans by the
utilities for dealing with rules that restrict joint marketing
efforts between utilities and their affiliates and require the use
of a disclaimer on all promotion by the utility affiliates,
including the business cards of their employees, stating they are
separate and independent from the utility and CPUC regulation.
Competing marketers from out of state have been lobbying long
and hard to have the CPUC adopt the toughest possible rules, with
costly penalties for violating the rules. Thus far, the CPUC
appears to be taking a more moderate approach.
Richard Nemec, Los Angeles
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