Retail energy supporters urge California PUC to maintain direct access

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 21, 2001 – In advance of the expected PUC decision to suspend direct access at its August 23 meeting, the Alliance for Retail Energy Markets (AReM), the Direct Access Coalition (DAC), and energy customers supporting retail choice or “direct access,” held a news conference to outline legislative and regulatory options available to the state that would not interfere with issuance of energy revenue bonds, while retaining California energy consumers’ access to the retail energy market.

Participants stressed that the PUC does not have to suspend direct access to facilitate the state’s upcoming $13 billion bond sale and that electricity choice must be preserved as an energy cost-controlling tool for large and small consumers.

Direct access supporters argued that maintaining retail choice will save the state money by limiting DWR’s spot market purchases.

“California is courting economic disaster when it ties the hands of business to control its costs,” said AReM spokesman Aaron Thomas, of AES NewEnergy. “Direct access can also help the state get out of the energy business sooner rather than later.”

In addition to AReM coalition members, participants included the California Chamber of Commerce, California Manufacturers & Technology Association, California Retailers Association, California Grocers Association, Qualcomm, City of Palm Springs, and the School Project for Utility Rate Reduction.

At the conference, AReM also summarized a filing the group made with the PUC on August 14 that outlines a plan for preserving customer choice. AReM’s plan provides a rational alternative to the PUC’s pending decision to suspend direct access by addressing the payback of state funds and showing how the PUC could exercise its current legal authority to implement direct access.

Existing statute requires the PUC to “authorize” and “facilitate” customer choice. In addition, AB1X, passed in February, gives the PUC complete discretion as to when it may suspend customer choice.

AReM recommends the PUC implement its direct access plan for an initial period of 12 months. At the end of those 12 months, the PUC could then revisit the program to review its impact and decide whether to continue, modify or suspend it. Meanwhile, AReM urges the legislature to continue to work on a legislative solution that would complement the PUC’s authority and ensure a role for direct access in the state’s energy landscape.

Alliance for Retail Energy Markets (AReM) is a coalition whose member companies include AES NewEnergy, American Utility Network, electricAMERICA., GreenMountain Energy Company, The New Power Company, and Strategic Energy, L.L.C.

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