By Justin Dalton
On October 7, 2021, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued D. 21-10-012 to R.18-07-005, an Order Instituting Rulemaking (OIR) to Consider New Approaches to Disconnections and Reconnections to Improve Energy Access and Contain Costs. The order for new rulemaking emanates from SB 598 (Hueso) (Chapter 362, Statutes of 2017). [26:1 CRLR 199; 24:2 CRLR 200–201; 24:1 CRLR 146]. SB 598 was signed into law on September 28, 2017, and requires the CPUC to “develop rules, policies, and regulations with the goal of reducing the statewide disconnection rate of natural gas and electricity customers” by January 1, 2024.
The decision orders Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), Southern California Edison Company (SCE), and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) “to implement Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) pilot programs to reduce residential disconnections of electric and natural gas service.” Participants in the PIPP pilot programs will receive a bill cap for their current natural gas and electricity bills at four percent of their household’s monthly income. Monthly bill caps will be standardized for households in two income tiers. The first being, 0–100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and the second is 101–200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines.
PG&E, SDG&E, SCE, and SoCalGas will enroll up to 15,000 of their customers as participants for 48 months to test whether PIPP programs can reduce the number of low-income households being disconnected from electric and natural gas services, encourage participation in energy saving and energy management programs, increase access to essential levels of energy service, and control program costs.
Customers of Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) will also be eligible for the PIPP pilot program if they are enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program, and if they are located in one of the zip codes with the highest rates of disconnection in a utility’s service area, or if they have had their energy or natural gas disconnected two or more times during the 12 months prior to the disconnection moratorium.
At the end of 18 months, an independent evaluator will assess the PIPP pilot program based on the data and will recommend whether to modify the PIPP program and whether or not to have the utilities adopt the program long-term.