Utility Watchdog in San Diego

UCAN’s Role and the CPUC

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)Utilities must apply to the CPUC for permission each time they want to change rates or rate structures, open or close a facility, make major changes to an existing facility, or do pretty much anything else that will have a significant impact on the production, delivery or cost of the utility’s services.

During the CPUC’s public review period, advocates like UCAN scrutinize each application and attend public hearings to develop and submit our own recommendations. We hire independent experts in the areas of operating and financing utilities to delve into the details of each application and painstakingly develop our point-by-point response to each proposed change.

Recognizing that individuals and public policy advocates usually lack the substantial financial resources necessary to assess and respond to rate cases, the CPUC makes provisions to pay “intervenor fees” to reimburse such expenditures. From the CPUC, “The Intervenor Compensation Program is intended to ensure that individuals and groups that represent residential or small commercial electric utility customers have the financial resources to bring their concerns and interests to the CPUC during formal proceedings.”

In practice, this means intervenors like UCAN incur expenses to respond to a CPUC case, then submit our expenses after the case is settled in hopes of full or partial reimbursement. Such reimbursement often comes a year or more after we incur the expenses, and there is no guarantee that all our expenses will be reimbursed. This means UCAN must rely on other sources of working capital – such as membership fees, donations and grants – to fund ongoing operations in support of our advocacy mission.

For more information on the CPUC’s Intervenor Compensation Program, see:
CPUC Intervenor Compensation Guide