Electrification is a key pillar in California's effort to decarbonize and combat climate change. Unfortunately, the rapid electrification of buildings, appliances, and transportation, not to mention the proliferation of distributed energy resources like solar panels and home batteries, has led to a backlog of customer requests for new (or upgraded) electric service connections (referred to as "energization" requests). These backlogs have been especially acute in the service territory of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, California's largest utility.
While individual homeowner complaints have left many individual Californians annoyed at the delays, the state faces real economic consequences with the delays in energization of larger customers who find themselves waiting for power to begin operations in the state. Some of these customers are so desperate for energization that they have begun looking for possible workarounds, including temporary and/or partial on-site power installations.
Last year, the Legislature passed several statutes to address this growing issue and today the California Public Utilities Commission ("CPUC") initiated a rulemaking procedure to implement those statutes.
Senate Bill 410 ("SB 410") referred to as the "Powering Up Californians Act," requires the CPUC to establish on or before September 30, 2024, "reasonable average and maximum target energization time periods" as well as a procedure for customers to report energization delays to the CPUC. If the electric utilities are unable to meet the CPUC's energization timelines, they will be required to take remedial actions.
Similarly, Assembly Bill 50 ("AB 50") requires the Commission to determine the criteria for timely service for electric customers to be energized, including, among other things, categories of timely electric service through energization. AB 50 also requires the electrical corporations to meet certain energization timeliness and make changes to their distribution planning processes, to be determined by the Commission.
It is now the responsibility of the CPUC to implement these statutes' mandates. Relatedly, the Commission opened another rulemaking earlier this month that will address the timely energization of electrical vehicle charging sites.
Issues to Be Addressed in the CPUC New Rulemaking
Today the CPUC opened a rulemaking to implement certain provisions of SB 410 and AB 50The rulemaking will establish criteria governing timely energization service as well as a procedure for customers to report energization delays.
Stakeholders with an interest in the process and timeline for customer energization should become parties to this new CPUC proceeding and participate in the rulemaking process. As an initial matter, parties will have the opportunity to provide preliminary comments on the issues to be addressed in this proceeding. Party comments on the Order Instituting Rulemaking ("OIR") are due 20 days after the issuance date of the OIR, and reply comments are due 10 days after the date the opening comments are due. (This blog will be updated with exact dates once the OIR is issued.)
The new proceeding will focus on the following actions that, pursuant to SB 410, the Commission must take by September 30, 2024:
- Establish reasonable average and maximum target energization time periods per Public Utilities Code Section 934(a)(1).
- Establish a procedure for customers to report energization delays per Section 934(a)(2).
This proceeding will also address the following related requirements:
- Determining the criteria for timely service for electric customers to be energized per Section 933.5(a) and for upgraded electric customer service per Section 933.5(d).
- Establishing annual reporting requirements on customer energization for the electrical corporations to be used to evaluate the electrical corporations' fulfillment of timely electric service per Section 933.5(a)(2)(A).
- Convening annually a public workshop for the electrical corporations to discuss their reports with interested parties and experts in customer energization per Section 933.5(a)(3).
- Providing a forum for docketing of electrical corporation reports on energization and consideration of actions to take in light of those reports per Sections 933.5(b), 933.5(d), and 934(d).
Improving the efficiency of electric service connections is crucial for the implementation of California's ambitious electrification objectives and to ensure continued economic growth. This rulemaking is one of many CPUC proceedings addressing the host of challenges arising in California's rapidly evolving energy landscape. Follow our Insights for further updates on this topic.