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California State Bill to Expand Competitive Energy Market


Earlier this week, California passed into law a bill allowing for the expansion of the state’s competitive energy market and direct access program. SB 236 allows for a slight increase in the cap enforced by the state since 2001’s energy crisis, giving greater freedom to large-scare commercial, industrial, government or institutional customers to buy from competitive energy providers, rather than from local investor-owner utility distributors.

Solar panels are a common feature of California households.
Image from EcoWatch.com

While the allowance has only grown incrementally larger, the bill is a step forward for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to begin exploring whether or not to expand the state’s current direct access program. CPUC President Michael Picker has identified direct access as one of the key challenges facing the state. Another challenge identified by Picker is the growing community-choice aggregation (CCA) movement, a collection of city- and county-based entities that offer an alternative to investor-owned utility energy. Direct access and CCA oppose each other and compete for market share of the consumers.

Regulators are now tasks with exploring DA program extension and balancing this with the will of the growing CCA movement. Expansion of DA has been unpopular with some environmental groups because it could undermine CCAs by serving as another non-utility option that consumers can opt for. Both DA and CCA could help meet the state’s set renewable energy and carbon reduction goals. However, forecasts set most CCA’s to exceed the goals significantly.

Still, 2018 has seen significant progress for the state of California’s energy policies. Multiple major bills have been passed into law this year alone, including SB 100, a mandate for 100 percent clean energy by 2045. Other bills include SB 700, which extends behind-the-meter energy storage incentives, and AB901, the wildfire utility relief bill.

[Source: GreenTech Media].

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