California regulators last week liberalized the use of utilityemployees in non-utility energy affiliate companies as part oftheir action finalizing a set of rules on the interaction betweenthe state’s three major electricity utilities and their affiliatedcompanies. With the advent of retail electric competition each ofthe utilities have several unregulated affiliates offering energysupplies and related services.

Setting aside staff suggestions of a ban against shiftingutility employees among affiliates and the regulated company, thefive-member California Public Utilities Commission decided to allowutility employees to spend up to 30% of their annual time workingfor affiliated, unregulated energy companies as long as the utilityis reimbursed for the full cost of the employee, plus premiums of10 and 1%.

“The utilities basically got what they wanted,” said a CPUCstaff member who was lobbying hard to have the CPUC allow onlypermanent moves of at least one year for utility employeestransferring to an unregulated affiliate.

“It is a big blow to the separation rules. And it is going to bevery hard to keep track of this and enforce it.”

Generally, the CPUC adopted individual compliance plans by theutilities for dealing with rules that restrict joint marketingefforts between utilities and their affiliates and require the useof a disclaimer on all promotion by the utility affiliates,including the business cards of their employees, stating they areseparate and independent from the utility and CPUC regulation.

Competing marketers from out of state have been lobbying longand hard to have the CPUC adopt the toughest possible rules, withcostly penalties for violating the rules. Thus far, the CPUCappears to be taking a more moderate approach.

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