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AB-1736 Energy: baseline quantities of electricity and natural gas.(2013-2014)

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CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2013–2014 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 1736


Introduced by Assembly Member Buchanan

February 14, 2014


An act to amend Section 739 of the Public Utilities Code, relating to energy.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1736, as introduced, Buchanan. Energy: baseline quantities of electricity and natural gas.
Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory authority over public utilities, including electrical corporations and gas corporations, as defined. Existing law authorizes the commission to fix the rates and charges for every public utility, and requires that those rates and charges be just and reasonable. The Public Utilities Act requires the commission to designate a baseline quantity of electricity and gas necessary for a significant portion of the reasonable energy needs of the average residential customer, and to establish a higher energy allowance above the baseline, for residential customers dependent on life-support equipment. The act requires that electrical corporations and gas corporations file rates and charges, to be approved by the commission, providing baseline rates that are applicable to the first block of usage and requires the commission, in establishing baseline rates, to avoid excessive rate increases for residential customers and to establish an appropriate gradual differential between the rates for the respective blocks of usage.
This bill would make technical, nonsubstantive revisions to the requirement that the commission designate a baseline quantity of electricity and gas necessary for a significant portion of the reasonable energy needs of the average residential customer.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 739 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

739.
 (a) As used in this section:
(1) “Baseline quantity” means a quantity of electricity or gas allocated by the commission for residential customers based on from 50 to 60 percent of average residential consumption of these commodities, except that, for residential gas customers and for all-electric residential customers, the baseline quantity shall be established at from 60 to 70 percent of average residential consumption during the winter heating season. In establishing the baseline quantities, the commission shall take into account climatic and seasonal variations in consumption and the availability of gas service. The commission shall review and revise baseline quantities as average consumption patterns change in order to maintain these ratios.
(2) “Residential customer” means those customers receiving electrical or gas service pursuant to a domestic rate schedule and excludes industrial, commercial, and every other category of customer.
(b) The commission shall designate a baseline quantity of gas and electricity which that is necessary to supply a significant portion of the reasonable energy needs of the average residential customer. In estimating those quantities, the commission shall take into account differentials in energy needs between customers whose residential energy needs are currently supplied by electricity alone or by both electricity and gas. The commission shall develop a separate baseline quantity for all-electric residential customers. For these purposes, “all-electric residential customers” are residential customers having electrical service only or whose space heating is provided by electricity, or both. The commission shall also take into account differentials in energy use by climatic zone and season.
(c) (1) The commission shall establish a standard limited allowance which that shall be in addition to the baseline quantity of gas and electricity for residential customers dependent on life-support equipment, including, but not limited to, emphysema and pulmonary patients. A residential customer dependent on life-support equipment shall be allocated a higher energy allocation than the average residential customer.
(2) “Life-support equipment” means that equipment which that utilizes mechanical or artificial means to sustain, restore, or supplant a vital function, or mechanical equipment which that is relied upon for mobility both within and outside of buildings. “Life-support equipment,” as used in this subdivision, includes all of the following: all types of respirators, iron lungs, hemodialysis machines, suction machines, electric nerve stimulators, pressure pads and pumps, aerosol tents, electrostatic and ultrasonic nebulizers, compressors, IPPB machines, and motorized wheelchairs.
(3) The limited allowance specified in this subdivision shall also be made available to paraplegic and quadriplegic persons in consideration of the increased heating and cooling needs of those persons.
(4) The limited allowance specified in this subdivision shall also be made available to multiple sclerosis patients in consideration of the increased heating and cooling needs of those persons.
(5) The limited allowance specified in this subdivision shall also be made available to scleroderma patients in consideration of the increased heating needs of those persons.
(6) The limited allowance specified in this subdivision shall also be made available to persons who are being treated for a life-threatening illness or have a compromised immune system, if a licensed physician and surgeon or a person licensed pursuant to the Osteopathic Initiative Act certifies in writing to the utility that the additional heating or cooling allowance, or both, is medically necessary to sustain the life of the person or prevent deterioration of the person’s medical condition.
(d) (1) The commission shall require that every electrical and gas corporation file a schedule of rates and charges providing baseline rates. The baseline rates shall apply to the first or lowest block of an increasing block rate structure which shall be the baseline quantity. In establishing these rates, the commission shall avoid excessive rate increases for residential customers, and shall establish an appropriate gradual differential between the rates for the respective blocks of usage.
(2) In establishing residential electric and gas rates, including baseline rates, the commission shall ensure that the rates are sufficient to enable the electrical corporation or gas corporation to recover a just and reasonable amount of revenue from residential customers as a class, while observing the principle that electricity and gas services are necessities, for which a low affordable rate is desirable and while observing the principle that conservation is desirable in order to maintain an affordable bill.
(3) At least until December 31, 2003, the commission shall require that all charges for residential electric customers are volumetric, and shall prohibit any electrical corporation from imposing any charges on residential consumption that are independent of consumption, unless those charges are in place prior to April 12, 2001.
(e) (1) Each electrical corporation and each gas corporation shall, in a timeframe consistent with each electrical and gas corporation’s next general rate case, disclose on the billing statement of a residential customer all of the following:
(A) Cost per kilowatthour or gas therm per tier.
(B) Allocation of kilowatthour or gas therm per tier.
(C) Visual representation of usage and cost per tier.
(D) Usage comparison with prior periods.
(E) Itemized cost components in the bill to identify state and local taxes.
(F) Identification of delivery, generation, public purpose, and other charges.
(G) Contact information for the commission’s Consumer Affairs Branch.
(2) An electrical corporation and a gas corporation shall make available online to residential customers both of the following:
(A) Examples of how conservation measures, including changing thermostat settings and turning off unused lights, could reduce energy usage and costs.
(B) Examples of how energy-saving devices and weatherization measures could reduce energy usage and costs.
(3) The commission may modify, adjust, or add to the requirements of this subdivision as the individual circumstances of each electrical corporation or gas corporation merits, or for master-meter customers, as individual circumstances merit.
(4) The commission shall, as part of the general rate case of an electrical corporation or gas corporation, assess opportunities to improve the quality of information contained in the utility’s periodic billings.
(f) Wholesale electrical or gas purchases, and the rates charged therefor, are exempt from this section.
(g) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to prohibit experimentation with alternative gas or electrical rate schedules for the purpose of achieving energy conservation.