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Legislators, CPUC in Standoff Over CA’s Energy Future
End-of-the-year assessments of California’s roller-coaster ride along energy restructuring point to a lack of consensus among the state’s leaders and industry stakeholders about what the state’s future framework for electricity in particular should look like. A report over the holiday week in the Los Angeles Times reported a split between the state’s top regulator and state legislator over who should take the next steps in shaping the state’s energy markets.
“All (we’re) doing is putting the pieces into the puzzle,” said Loretta Lynch, president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in an LA Times article last week. “How big the puzzle is and what the shape of it is still lies in the bailiwick of the state legislature and the governor. Whether our energy system looks like a camel or an elephant is not up to the CPUC.”
However, the same news report quoted other stakeholders as putting more of the onus for describing the future on the state regulatory body and the administration of Gov. Gray Davis. Specifically, the head of the state senate, Sen. John Burton, was quoted by the Times as suggesting that the state lawmakers depend on the “experts” in this case, calling on the CPUC, state energy commission and state electrical transmission grid operator, Cal-ISO, specifically, to come up with the plans for legislative approval.
“We don’t have a market right now; we don’t have a structure that is viable going forward,” said Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute in Berkeley, as quoted in the news report. Borenstein said the state has to figure out if it is going to “re-regulate,” or continue to try to develop a “working deregulation system.”
“We’re adrift,” Borenstein told the LA Times. “And the legislature has turned its attention elsewhere because it isn’t a day-to-day crisis.”
Supporters of Davis reiterate that the governor’s energy vision for the state continues to be: (a) bringing more new power plants on line; (b) continuing to push conservation and demand-side management; and (c) restoring the financial health of the state’s two major private-sector utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Southern California Edison Co.
Nevertheless, a combination of consumer advocates, industry observers and participants within the Davis Administration voiced concerns that “nobody (in power) is looking at the future” in the news reports assessing the state’s power crisis and what is being done to avoid its reoccurrence in the months and years ahead.
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