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Industry News

CA PUC Study Projects Little Benefit to State from Deregulation

LCG, Mar. 18, 2004--A study completed by the planning division of the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to assess possible impacts of electricity deregulation found few benefits were likely to be realized through at least 2009, a conclusion that PUC President Michael Peevey greeted with strong skepticism.

The report indicates that, because of the long-term contracts entered into by California during the energy crisis in 2001, the opportunity for significant reduction in costs to energy purchasers would probably be muted. Peevey, in a letter to legislators, found no reason in the "overly timid" report that further progress on deregulation should be delayed. The PUC president supports a plan some have called "core/non-core", which would allow larger users to sign contracts with a variety of suppliers, while "core" customers would continue to buy electricity through the regulated utilities.

In addition to long-term contracts, the lingering cost of the energy crisis stems from the need to pay down debt incurred with the sale of bonds. Industrial customers have experienced a modest reduction of 14 percent, following rate increases of 50 to 150 percent. This class of customers would likely benefit most from a return to deregulation if their payments for those liabilities were to drop, and they were able to deal with energy producers separately.

Some legislators, as well as the consumer advocacy organization The Utility Reform Network (TURN), are concerned that deregulation such as Peevey is advocating might shift some of the burden of paying for previous deals away from those able to negotiate independently towards other customers. The California Manufacturing and Technology Association, as well as the Independent Energy Producers Association, support Peevey's plan, and believe that reduced costs for business that have experienced significant rate increases could result from deregulation.
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