General Rate Case Plan Reform:  Energy Utilities 

Background 

On November 14, 2013, the CPUC opened a new Rulemaking to consider changes to both the General Rate Case (GRC) Plan and to consider how to incorporate risk-based decision-making into General Rate Cases for electricity and gas utilities. This rulemaking would expand upon both previous legislation (including Senate Bill 705) and CPUC Decisions on natural gas safety issues enacted since the 2010 San Bruno disaster. The CPUC last made comprehensive changes to its Rate Case Plan in 1989.

On December 20, 2013, the utilities responded to the CPUC’s data request from its November Rulemaking.

On February 20, 2014, the CPUC issued its draft Staff Straw Proposal recommending changes to its Energy Rate Case Plan. On April 17, 2014, the CPUC issued a Refined Staff Straw Proposal responding to input from stakeholders during the CPUC’s March Workshops.   

On December 4, the CPUC adopted its Final Decision, which replaces the CPUC’s Rate Case Plan adopted in 2007 and requires:

  • A risk-based decision-making framework
    • Safety Model Assessment Proceedings (S-MAP)
    • Risk Assessment and Mitigation Phase proceeding (RAMP)
    • Annual verification reports including a Risk Mitigation Accountability Report and a Risk Spending Accountability Report 
  • The new Plan applies to the General Rate Case application filings of Edison, PG&E, SDG&E, SoCalGas beginning February 1, 2015
  • The new Plan applies to the General Rate Case application filings of the small energy utilities of Bear Valley, Liberty, PacifiCorp, and Southwest Gas three years from the effective date of the CPUC’s final decision

 

ORA Policy Position 

ORA supports the CPUC's adoption of an improved General Rate Case (GRC) process, including how to better incorporate the issue of safety into the GRC process, as it addresses many of the issues that ORA raised during the proceeding, including:

Safety 

Significant analysis, verification of past activities, and examination of forward looking activities should take place before a GRC is filed with the CPUC. ORA proposes a long-term safety plan that would establish broad metrics, which the utilities should address how they will meet those metrics, prior to filing their GRC. The CPUC should adopt a plan that requires:

  • A decision-tree informing project selection.
  • Cost-caps, cost-sharing, and incentives.
  • Project categories that are included / excluded and correlate to the decision-tree.
  • Explanation of how unknown utility system features will be resolved.
  • Internal audit report review.
  • CPUC audit plan for reviewing past projects and expenditures.

This information would then flow into the utilities’ GRC filing. All utility filings should be required to demonstrate compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Conclusory statements, even if verified by the utility, are insufficient for an adequate, risk-informed GRC filing. To the extent that sensitive homeland security or market sensitive information is required to demonstrate compliance, it can be provided to the CPUC under seal.

Rate Case Plan 

ORA recommends the CPUC should:

  • Retain its Notice of Intent process, with reduced response time because it allows the opportunity to cure deficiencies, which ensures better utility filings and reduces the CPUC’s procedural burden.
  •  Conduct more formal reviews of utility spending, including audits, in the years between GRCs.
  • Require utilities to file the previous year’s recorded data by the end of February in the year the GRC is being processed in order to avoid ad hoc requests and streamline the process.
  • Provide summaries of utility requests.
  • Hold interactive Public Participation Hearings that allow remote participation.
  • Allow submission of public comments in formal proceedings via the CPUC’s website.

 

However, ORA believes that the process would be further improved if:

  • The large energy utilities should file their GRC applications and serve prepared testimony on September 1 (as originally proposed in the Refined Straw Proposal) rather than November 1 in order to provide for sufficient time to review the utilities’ complex rate case
    filings.
  • The CPUC established a 4-year GRC cycle for the large energy utilities instead of a 3-year cycle in order to prevent the overlap between major rate cases that has occurred in recent years.

See ORA’s May 23, 2014 Comments on the CPUC’s Straw Proposal. 

See ORA’s June 13, 2014 Reply Comments

See ORA’s July 25, 2014 additional Comments the CPUC’s Straw Proposal. 

See ORA’s August 22, 2014 additional Reply Comments

 

See ORA’s January 15, 2014 Opening Comments.

See ORA’s January 30, 2014 Reply Comments.

 

Proceeding Status 

See the Proceeding docket.