Herrera defends CCA against attacks

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By Rebecca Bowe

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a petition with the California Public Utilities Commission today urging it to restrict Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s hostile attacks against Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), a program that allows local governments to establish alternative power programs.

The petition asks the CPUC to modify one of its decisions by inserting clear language spelling out that that investor-owned utilities are prohibited from sending out anti-CCA marketing materials, making misleading statements, or engaging in other activities that interfere with the creation of these alternative energy programs.

San Francisco’s CCA, dubbed CleanPower SF, is in the phase of reviewing five different applications from prospective electricity service providers. The goal of the program is to offer San Franciscans electricity derived from 51 percent renewable sources by 2017 at rates that match or beat PG&E prices. Contract negotiations with the highest-scoring candidate could begin as early as next month.

PG&E initially supported to the 2002 legislation, AB 117, which enabled the creation of CCAs statewide and prohibited utilities from interfering with efforts to set them up. But in recent months, California’s largest utility has made a complete turnaround, spending $5 million on a proposed ballot initiative that would require a two-thirds majority vote in local jurisdictions before governments could implement CCAs.

As Marin County and San Francisco move forward with their respective attempts to set up greener alternatives to PG&E, the pressure is intensifying. Several weeks ago, a wave of attack mailers paid for by PG&E crashed into San Francisco homes and businesses. This is the sort of activity Herrera is seeking to prevent by filing today’s petition with the CPUC. Because the city is short on time, he requested an expedited review.

"We cannot let Californians be denied the benefits of cleaner, cost-effective energy alternatives -- consumer choice is simply too important to ratepayers and the environment," Herrera said. "The California Public Utilities Commission exists to police giant utilities, to assure that their monopoly advantages aren't abused to exploit consumers or frustrate the policy objectives of our state lawmakers. Yet that is exactly what has happened since PG&E locked CCA into its crosshairs. It is critical for state regulators to move quickly and decisively to tighten regulations, and restore teeth to the law as the legislature intended.”