8660 Public Utilities Commission
6680 - REGULATION OF UTILITIES
Californians spend more than $50 billion annually for services from industries regulated by the PUC. This includes 6 electricity utilities (80 percent of electric load in California), 913 telecommunications carriers, 129 water and sewer utilities, 5 natural gas utilities with approximately 10.8 million customers, 4 gas storage facilities, and more than 3,170 small mobile home park and propane operators.
The PUC oversees the safety of electric, communications, natural gas, and propane gas utility systems. Safety functions include both backward-looking investigation and analysis of safety incidents and utility performance, and forward-looking risk assessment to identify necessary regulatory rule reform. The PUC also performs operation and maintenance audits, outage inspections, and investigations of incidents at electric generation facilities.
The PUC conducts triennial reviews of utility operations to determine just and reasonable rates for energy services. The PUC provides guidelines for investor-owned utilities and other load-serving entities to follow when purchasing electricity on behalf of their 11.5 million customers to ensure that sufficient amounts of electricity are procured when and where needed in the state. Environmental protection and the impact of climate change are critical factors in PUC regulation and promotion of ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs, the state's mandated renewable energy programs, and other clean energy programs.
Natural gas rate regulation encompasses setting natural gas rates and overseeing services, including in-state transportation over the utilities' transmission and distribution pipeline systems, storage, procurement, metering, and billing.
The PUC establishes requirements for energy programs for low-income ratepayers, including programs providing rate discounts, financial assistance with energy bills, and the Energy Savings Assistance Program, which provides no-cost weatherization services to customers who meet low-income eligibility criteria.
The PUC conducts and manages environmental reviews pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act for transmission, telecommunications, and other infrastructure projects.
The PUC develops and implements policies for the rapidly changing communications and broadband markets, including removing barriers to a fully competitive market; enforcing customer service standards for telecommunication services; regulating basic and rural telecommunication rates; protecting consumers against telecommunications fraud; promoting widespread access to advanced video technology, and developing programs to bridge the "digital divide."
The PUC is responsible for ensuring that California's investor-owned water utilities deliver clean, safe, and reliable water to their customers at reasonable rates. The PUC's water utility work includes investigating water and sewer service quality, promoting water conservation and metering, improving low-income programs, analyzing and processing rate change requests, and tracking and certifying compliance with PUC requirements.
The Public Advisor's Office provides procedural information, advice, and assistance to individuals and groups interested in participating in PUC proceedings. The Consumer Affairs Branch maintains a call center to respond to questions regarding utility service and bills, and conducts dispute and problem resolution. A Supplier Diversity program promotes and monitors supplier diversity in procurement by utilities and oversees a certification clearinghouse.