I do some work for the No on 7 Campaign.
The California Public Utilities Commission(CPUC) is something of a stodgy institution, not particularly known for making big statements. While it’s worth noting that al least one member of the PUC has a history as an executive with the utilities in California, the CPUC’s take on Proposition 7 is at least worth a look, especially now that major newspapers, like the LA Times today and the SJ Merc, and all the major environmental groups in the state, including the Sierra Club, are opposed.
The CPUC report is available in HTML . Thank you CPUC, I wish more governmental bodies and research institutions could put their reports in HTML so I’m not constantly having to open bulky PDFs which make copy and paste difficult. Though you can still find a Word Doc here and a PDF here. So to my friends from policy school at the CPUC who might have taken part in this analysis, thanks! Sorry, end tangent.
Anyway, the report is broken down into thirteen points, but is generally pretty short. While they do not take a formal position on the initiative, as they are a governmental body, they have few words of praise and a bevy of criticism of Prop 7. Take this for example:
[Prop. 7] will establish… [a] potentially dysfunctional, structure for the further development of renewable energy in California … [Prop 7] could lead to grid operation problems.
They take a look at each of the 13 things that the analysts at the CPUC perceive that Prop 7 will do, but begin with this summary of concerns…over the flip.
The current regulatory framework, as embodied in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) program, which is being implemented via the Commission’s long-term procurement, resource adequacy and other related proceedings provides the Commission with the flexibility needed to address emerging technologies and the changing marketplace. However, the legal changes that Proposition 7 would impose would seriously interfere with, and delay the implementation of, the numerous renewable energy-related programs that the Commission is currently carrying out. Of particular note, Proposition 7 appears to exclude all renewable resources smaller than 30 megawatts (“MW”). Such smaller renewable facilities can be expected to provide a significant portion of the renewable energy that will be needed to meet the RPS, and their exclusion from the program would inevitably hinder, rather than facilitate, the accomplishment of the state’s RPS goals.
Furthermore, the institutional changes that Proposition 7 would impose would, in the short term, actively disrupt and slow down our ability as a state to meet the 20% RPS goal that is currently enshrined in state law, as well as the more aggressive 33% goal that has been established as a policy of this Commission and the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) and Governor Schwarzenegger, among other leading state officials. Additionally, none of the regulatory or institutional changes that Proposition 7 would make would actually facilitate the accomplishment of the state’s RPS goals in any way. For example, shifting the environmental review of transmission projects from the CPUC to the CEC would not in any way reduce the timelines needed to build new transmission. The most significant source of delay in the siting of new transmission is the environmental review process, which is a legally required step regardless of whether the CEC or CPUC is the responsible agency. Another significant source of delays in the permitting of transmission projects is beyond the control of the state, and is, rather, within the purview of the federal government or of other states.
Finally, Proposition 7 would create a conflict, because under current law, the CPUC has the responsibility for siting all transmission lines, but Proposition 7 proposes to enact a law that would only transfer transmission siting responsibility for renewable energy to the CEC. Since most transmission lines carry both renewable and non-renewable electricity, it is unclear how both agencies would be able to carry out their statutory duties. (CPUC report )
The report then goes through each of thirteen points that the commission finds of note. I won’t belabor the points here, but I’ll send you back to the CPUC report for more details, but here are there thirteen points:
_ Establishes new, higher RPS targets for electricity providers – 40 % by 2020 and 50 % by 2025;
_ Changes the cost cap provisions that limit electricity provider obligations under the RPS;
_ Future amendments to Proposition 7 would require a 2/3 vote of the legislature which limits the ability of the state to respond to changes in the marketplace if a need becomes evident;
_ Excludes renewable electrical sources under 30 MW from participating in the program set up by Proposition 7;
_ Falsely states that it will cap rate impacts at less than 3 percent ;
_ Incorporates a Fast-Track Plant Approval process that could undermine environmental protections and local input;
_ Changes the process for defining “Market Price of Electricity;”
_ Transfers some of the CPUC’s authority over the siting of transmission lines carrying renewable power from the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) to the CEC, which would be in conflict with the CPUC’s statutory duties;
_ Directs the use of RPS penalty revenues to construct government-owned transmission facilities;
_ Changes minimum RPS contract length from 10 years to 20 years;
_ Makes renewable procurement requirements enforceable on publicly-owned utilities by the CEC;
_ Sets a lower penalty rate than what is currently in statute and removes the cap on the total penalty amount for failure to meet RPS requirements; and
_ Transfers permitting authority over new non-thermal renewable energy power plants over 30 MW from local government to the CEC.
These bullet points themselves are argumentative, and the CPUC clearly has a position, even if unspoken. So, take a moment sometime before Nov. 4 and learn about Prop 7.