Utility Watchdog in San Diego
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By Don Kelly, Executive Director

In May 2014 the Union Tribune published UCAN’s Op Ed supporting the proposed decommissioning settlement for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) which was negotiated between The Utility Reform Network (TURN) the Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA) and Southern California Edison (SCE) and which was subsequently approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Since the approval of the settlement disturbing new facts have come to light, seriously calling into question the integrity of the settlement process.  At minimum the transparency of those proceedings was severely compromised when Southern California Edison (SCE) failed to disclose – within three days as required by law – the private (ex parte) discussions they had with CPUC President Michael Peevey about what settlement terms he would accept for San Onofre.  Exacerbating the ex parte violation, the conversations were revealed to have been held at a luxury hotel in Warsaw, Poland almost two years before they were disclosed. 

UCAN believes that SCE gained an unfair advantage in negotiating the settlement because they had inside information from CPUC President Peevey on what settlement terms he would accept. 

While UCAN has not before publicly announced our changed position on SONGS, we were active behind the scenes in encouraging the SONGS settlement be set aside.  In April 2015, John Geesman, an attorney for the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility (A4NR) filed a motion to amend the SONGS settlement.  In early June I had conversations with John Geesman, encouraging him to have discussions with both TURN and ORA to join his motion.  In addition, prior to TURN and ORA publicly announcing their changed position, in early June I was at the CPUC and talked with Matt Freedman from TURN and Gregory Heiden from ORA (both of whom worked on the SONGS case) about joining Mr. Geesman’s motion.  I mentioned, among other things, that Mr. Geesman was claiming that TURN and ORA were victims of “fraud by concealment” based on SCE’s failure to disclose their contacts about the San Onofre settlement with the Commission President. 

On June 24, 2015 Mr. Freedman from TURN withdrew TURN’s support for the SONGS settlement and noted the following:

“A4NR asserts that the failure of SCE to disclose its extensive communications with former President Peevey represents fraud by concealment that unfairly disadvantaged TURN and the Office of Ratepayer Advocates in the settlement negotiations. A4NR argues that, had SCE filed ex parte notices disclosing these communications, ‘both ORA and TURN would likely have negotiated a better settlement’”.

“TURN agrees that recent disclosures detailing extensive communications between SCE and CPUC decision makers during the pendency of this proceeding are very troubling. TURN was a good faith participant in the settlement negotiations, and was not aware of the Warsaw note, the private meeting, or any agreement between Mr. Peevey and SCE at any time before or during the extended settlement negotiations that led to the proposed settlement. Had SCE disclosed these communications in a timely manner, this information would have had an impact on settlement negotiations . . .”

On August 11, 2015, the Office of Ratepayer Advocates also changed their position and asked that the SONGS settlement be set aside:

“ORA respectfully requests that the Commission overturn its decision adopting the settlement and reopen the SONGS investigation to all for resolution through litigation rather than through settlement.”

“The A4NR PFM (Petition for modification) was premised on the revelation of significant, pervasive, unlawful and previously undisclosed communications between senior Edison executives and the Commission President Michael Peevey, particularly referencing what has come to be known as the Hotel Bristol notes (Notes). In those Notes, which Edison asserts were transcribed by Edison Executive Vice President of External Relations, Stephen Pickett, as dictated to him by Peevey at the at the Hotel Bristol in Poland, Peevey indicated his suggested outcome for a SONGS settlement. ORA, along with other parties to the SONGS proceeding, and much of the observing public, were shocked by the revelation of the Hotel Bristol Notes.” (Emphasis added)             

While for the last several months UCAN supported setting aside the SONGS settlement, we did so behind the scenes. Through this article, however, UCAN is now announcing publicly our changed position.  UCAN agrees with the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility (A4NR) that SCE’s failure to fulfill their legal obligations and timely notify all parties of their meeting with President Peevey resulted fraud by concealment.   UCAN’s support of this settlement in the Op-Ed I wrote in May 2014 was based in part on the belief that the negotiations had been fair and that every party acted in good faith.  We now know that was not true.  Had SCE disclosed what they were legally required to disclose, as Mr. Freedman from TURN noted, it would have had an impact on the negotiations.  

UCAN, along with the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, the Office of Ratepayer Advocates and the Utility Reform Network, as well as numerous other parties, are now urging the CPUC to rescind the previously approved settlement.

What can you do? Contact the Public Advisor for the CPUC, Karen Miller, by phone, email or postal mail as indicated below. Her office’s job is to gather, consolidate and forward your input to the Commissioners:

    • Telephone: 866-849-8390 or 415-703-2074

    • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    • Postal Service: CPUC Public Advisor, 505 Van Ness Avenue, Room 2103, San Francisco, CA 94102

Executive Director Update

Dear UCAN Members and Supporters,

Thank you for helping make our 2015 Membership Appeal a success. UCAN received over 600 donations totaling more than $20,000. These donations go a long way to support our operations and advocacy. We have been busy at UCAN, involved in several proceedings at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), including: 

  • UCAN is a party to the Commission’s review of the residential rate structure; this review includes examining how to restructure the tiered rates that residential customers now use to pay for electricity. This review is also examining whether California’s three major utilities should switch residential customers to time-of-use (TOU) pricing. The tiered rate issues being examined include: 
    • Should the utilities reduce the number of tiers (SDG&E has 4 tiers), 
    • Should the utilities add a customer charge and use the revenue generated to reduce the tiered rate electricity prices, 
    • Should the utilities raise prices for low use customers to reduce the prices of electricity for higher use customers. 

In examining the time-of-use issues, the Commission is looking into whether all residential customers should be moved away from tiered rates to TOU pricing where energy may be more or less expensive depending on when during the day it is used (on-peak usage would be more expensive than off-peak usage). 

  • UCAN is challenging SDG&E’s application seeking to move the time-of-use (TOU) on-peak pricing periods to later in the day. SDG&E is asking that three on-peak hours from 11 am to 2 pm (when the sun is shining) be replaced with 3 hours from 6 pm to 9 pm when the sun is down. By moving the on-peak pricing to some night time hours solar customers would get less for the power they produce from 11 am to 2 pm and have to pay more for the power they use when the sun is down from 6 pm to 9 pm. 
  • UCAN is challenging SDG&E’s application seeking $102 million in ratepayer dollars so they can install and own 5,500 Electric Vehicle Charging Station at 550 sites throughout SDG&E’s service territory. SDG&E has called this $102 million dollar, 22-year program a “pilot”. 
  • UCAN is reviewing SDG&E’s latest 1.911-billion-dollar request in their recently filed “General Rate Case”. 

UCAN has one goal when intervening in proceedings at the CPUC: to give YOU, the ratepayer, a VOICE protecting YOUR interests. To learn more about our work, how we help you and how you can help us, keep reading. Thank you again for your generous support. UCAN will continue working on your behalf! 

Donald M. Kelly

Executive Director, UCAN

UCAN’s involvement at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) 

  • UCAN Makes Recommendations to SDG&E’s Tiered Residential Rate Restructuring Proposals – The CPUC is examining significant changes to the current tiered residential rate structure in California. UCAN’s Summary of Recommendations in this complex proceeding can be found in our opening brief and reply brief filed in January 2015. On April 21, 2015, the Administrative Law Judges assigned to the case issued a Proposed Decision. CPUC Commissioner Michael Florio then issued an alternate proposed decision on May 22, 2015. UCAN has filed comments and reply comments on the Judges proposed decision and we are preparing to file comments on Commissioner Florio’s alternative. It is expected that the Commission will vote on this issue sometime in June or July 2015.
  • UCAN Protests SDG&E’s General Rate Case – SDG&E filed this General Rate Case (GRC) application on November 14, 2014 asking for $1.911 Billion to fund their operations. UCAN served testimony challenging several aspects of SDG&E’s request. If UCAN’s recommendations are adopted by the Commission they will save SDG&E ratepayers millions of dollars from what SDG&E has requested. This case is scheduled for Public Participation Hearings on June 1, 2, 3, and 10, 2015. UCAN has sent out an ACTION ALERT email asking that you attend these hearings. (Click here for our Action Alert
  • UCAN opposes SDG&E’s application for a $102 million ratepayer subsidy to build, install, operate, and maintain 5500 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at 550 sites – SDG&E wants almost $102 million in ratepayer funding for a 22 year “pilot” to build 5,500 charging stations at 550 sites throughout SDG&E’s service territory. SDG&E’s request is asking that the ratepayers fund SDG&E ownership of these charging stations. UCAN is opposing this scheme. In April 2015 the CPUC held 6 days of hearings on this application. UCAN believes that SDG&E’s pilot is too big, too long and costs too much. 
  • UCAN Protests SDG&E’s application to make changes in the on–peak Time-of-Use (TOU) Periods –SDG&E is asking to move the time-of-use (TOU) on-peak time periods currently set at 11 am to 6 pm (all daylight hours) to 2 pm to 9 pm (some daylight and some night hours). If the CPUC agrees with SDG&E then solar customers would be paid less for the power they produce from 11 am to 2 pm (when the sun shines) and they would be charged more for the power they use from 6 pm to 9 pm (when the sun is down). In January 2015 the Commission held hearings and UCAN filed Briefs in February 2015 asking for modifications to SDG&E’s proposal that among other things offers more protection to customers who already made substantial investments in solar systems. 
  • UCAN has intervened in Southern California Edison’s and SDG&E’s application asking the Commission to approve a $4.411 billion cost estimate to decommission San Onofre SDG&E and Southern California Edison Company (SCE) filed this application based on a 2014 $4.411-billion-dollar cost estimate to decommission San Onofre. UCAN is examining the justification for this estimate and whether the ratepayer contributions that were already made for the San Onofre decommissioning should be enough to cover all the costs. UCAN is examining whether future ratepayer contributions for decommissioning costs should be reduced to zero. UCAN’s experts have looked at the utilities proposals and will be offering testimony to make sure that the San Onofre decommissioning does not become a big money pit. 
    • NOTE: This proceeding involves the decommissioning costs of San Onofre and is different than the San Onofre (SONGS) Settlement. 
    • Increasing Energy Efficiency Between the Electric Utilities and the Water Sector – In 2013 UCAN was one of the first parties to support the Office of Ratepayer Advocate’s proposal to open a Water-Energy Nexus Rulemaking. This important proceeding seeks to improve existing methods for evaluating the cost effectiveness of water conservation and energy efficiency proposals. The CPUC issued a report and a proposed evaluation method (a tool) that helps to determine how much energy is saved through water conservation efforts. If saving water helps to save energy then the CPUC can use the money from the energy savings to cost effectively fund water conservation measures. UCAN’s 2 experts (a water law professor and an energy economist) have been examining what the Commission has produced. UCAN is drafting comments on the proposed evaluation method and tool.
    • UCAN Supports the Commission’s Consideration of Requiring an increase in Renewable Power Procurement – In February 2015, the CPUC opened a Rulemaking regarding their Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Among the questions asked is whether the CPUC should examine requiring companies like SDG&E to obtain more than 33% of their generation from renewable sources. Currently SDG&E is required to have 33% of its procured power from renewable sources by 2020. UCAN said YES, the Commission should examine this issue. While UCAN has not yet taken a position on how much more or even if the Commission should require SDG&E to procure more than 33% of its portfolio from renewable sources after 2020, we fully support an examination into this issues. 

UCAN’s involvement at the State and Local Level: 

  • January 23, 2015 – UCAN met with San Diego County’s State Senator Ben Hueso’s Chief of Staff. The topic was banning private (ex-parte) communications with CPUC Commissioners and their staffs on ratesetting matters. UCAN wants a law banning this lobbying practice. San Diego County State Senator Ben Hueso (Cal. Senate District 40) chairs the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee, which is responsible for oversight of CPUC activities. 
  • February 27, 2015 – UCAN met with San Diego County’s State Senator Marty Block (District 39) to discuss the potential for electric vehicle infrastructure at public schools. Senator Block sits on the Education Committee and the Economic Development Committee.
  • March 2015 – UCAN talked with San Diego City Councilmembers David Alvarez, Chris Cate, Scott Sherman and Todd Gloria regarding the Council’s proposed Resolution in response to SDG&E’s application to change their current rate structure. In addition to the council members named above, UCAN Executive Director Don Kelly offered comments at the City Council Meeting on March 17, 2015 urging support for the resolution seeking modifications to SDG&E’s proposal before the CPUC. By a 7-2 vote the Council passed the resolution.
  • June 2015 – UCAN plans to meet with County Supervisor Dave Roberts and Dianne Jacob. 

UCAN’s advocacy at the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Dept: 

  • UCAN helps San Diego water customers by interceding on their behalf when they face water shut-offs or fall behind on bills. We work closely with staff at the Water Department and the City Treasurer’s office for payment plans to avert shut-offs. If you find yourself in this situation, please call UCAN at 619-696-6966 and one of our advocates will help. 
  • Low – Income Ratepayer Assistance (LIRA) – UCAN is working with the San Diego City Council, the San Diego Public Utilities Department, and two other local non-profits (MAAC Project and Campesinos Unidos) to create a voluntarily funded Low-Income Ratepayer Assistance (LIRA) Program. San Diego is the eighth largest city in the nation and currently offers no assistance to low income residents who need help paying their water bills. UCAN is hoping that through a voluntarily funded program, San Diego will be able to offer help to the neediest water customers. Click here to learn more about the LIRA Program.

Support UCAN Today!

UCAN’s vigilance is not free. With all the issues UCAN is working on, your membership dues and donations are more important than ever before. Please renew your membership today.

Industry News

The California Drought
UCAN is very concerned about the drought in California and asks everyone to do their part to conserve water. Go to UCAN's Drought Page and learn more.

UCAN: 30 years standing with San Diego utility customers to demand fair rates and access!HELP US TO HELP YOU, by renewing your membership today or making a donation to keep our work going.Using our secure website for membership and donations minimizes our costs, but your check is welcome, as well.

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3405 Kenyon Street, Suite 401
San Diego, CA 92110

Thank you for your being a vital part of our ability to continue to serve San Diegans!

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MAY 2015
Energy | Water Telecom | About UCAN
$1.911 BILLION
WHY: Your input is important to the Commissioners and the Administrative Law Judges because it is their job to serve the citizens of California making sure SDG&E charges just and reasonable rates. 
SDG&E is asking for 1.911 BILLION dollars to fund their operations.  As SDG&E’s own application says: “If approved, this revenue requirement would be an increase of $133 million over the estimated 2015 revenue requirement, or a 7% increase.”   
SDG&E’s application also notes that when the impact of commodity costs and regulatory account balances are included then even with the CPUC approving the extra $133 million dollars in revenue requirement from 2015 to 2016 that customers would see a monthly bill savings of .25 cents for electricity and .32 cents for gas.
UCAN thinks the rates SDG&E charges are too high, and that SDG&E customers could use more relief than just .25 for electricity and .32 cents for gas. UCAN believes that SDG&E should get less so that ratepayers save more.The Commission needs to hear from SDG&E customers about how customers feel about the service they get from SDG&E and what they think of SDG&E’s rates for electricity.
Even if you don't have a specific issue or question, just showing up lets the Commission and the Utility know we are watching!

June 1, 2015, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
California Center for the Arts, Conference Center, Salon 1 Room,
 340 North Escondido Blvd., Escondido, CA 92025

June 2, 2015, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Oceanside Public Library, Civic Center Library Community Room,
 330 North Coast Highway, Oceanside, CA 92054

June 3, 2015, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
El Cajon City Council Chambers,
 200 Civic Center Way, El Cajon, CA 92020

June 10, 2015, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Scottish Rite Event Center, Square & Compass Rooms,
 1895 Camino Del Rio South, San Diego, CA 92108

A General Rate Case (GRC) is the major regulatory proceeding for California utilities, which provides the CPUC an opportunity to perform an exhaustive examination of a utility’s operations and costs. Typically performed every three years, the GRC allows the CPUC to conduct a broad and detailed review of a utility’s revenues, expenses, and investments in plant and equipment to establish an approved revenue requirement."
* The GRC is kicked off by an "application" from the Utility to the CPUC detailing their plans, associated costs (or savings sometimes) and resulting rate changes for which they seek approval.
* Many things in the application are based on projections and forecasts from the Utility.  As anyone knows, the forecasts are only as good as the data inputted and UCAN has serious issues with some of the forecasts used by SDG&E. 
In the GRC UCAN and other consumer groups are going to be at the CPUC hearings challenging SDG&E’s experts.  It would really help us if  the Administrative Law Judges heard from SDG&E customers directly. 
UCAN: 30 years standing with San Diego utility customers to demand fair rates and access! 
HELP US TO HELP YOU by renewing your membership today or making a donation to keep our work going. 
Using our secure website for membership and donations minimizes our costs, but your check is welcome, as well. 
Or send us a check: 
3405 Kenyon Street, Suite 401 San Diego, CA 92110 
Thank you for your being a vital part of our ability to continue to serve San Diegans! Need help with your utility bill? 

About UCAN

UCAN has represented the interests of San Diego County utility customers since 1983. UCAN focuses its efforts on the rates and services of San Diego Gas and Electric Company, telecommunications utilities and the City of San Diego Water Department.