2016 Public Advocates Office Annual Report 

On January 10, 2017, Public Advocates Office (the Office) submitted its 2016 Annual Report to the California State Legislature.

Public Advocates Office (the Office) - is the independent consumer advocate within the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that advocates solely on behalf of investor owned utility customers. As the only state entity charged with this responsibility, the Office plays a critical role in ensuring that the customers of California’s energy, water, and communications utilities are represented at the CPUC and in other forums that affect customers’ utility bills, environmental benefits, and the reliability and safety of those services.Annual Report 2016  

 

 The Public Advocates Office's Mission

To obtain the lowest possible rate for service
consistent with safety, reliability, and
the state’s environmental goals

 

  IN 2016, THE PUBLIC ADVOCATES OFFICE HELPED TO SAVE CUSTOMERS
NEARLY $7 BILLION with
  a RETURN to RATEPAYERS OF ABOUT $227
ACROSS CUSTOMER UTILITY BILLS 

 Public Advocates Office's (the Office) 2016 budget of nearly $30.5 million represents a small fraction of ratepayers' investment compared with the nearly $7 billion in savings the Office helped to achieve on behalf of ratepayers in 2016. This savings was realized in the form of lower utility revenues, avoided rate increases, and other customer benefits. For every dollar customers spent on the Office in 2016, they saved approximately $227 across their utility bills. The Office further influenced the outcome of numerous CPUC policies, decisions, and California legislation that will positively impact ratepayers.  

In 2016, the Office...

  • Participated in 155 CPUC Proceedings:  where the Office is often the only stakeholder broadly representing customers
      
  • Filed Approximately 675 Pleadings:  representing the ratepayer perspective before the CPUC to develop the formal record from which Commissioners formulate their final decisions
      
  • Met with CPUC Decision-makers 140 Times:  to enhance the Office's effectiveness through outreach and education

The Office has a staff of 147 professionals consisting of engineers, economists, scientists, and auditors with expertise in regulatory issues related to the electricity, natural gas, water, and communications industries in California. The Office's staff performs in-depth review and analyses of regulatory policy issues and utility proposals, for funding that totals in the tens of billions of dollars, in order to determine whether utility requests are in the interest of the ratepayers who fund utility activities through their utility bills. The Office also supports the state's safety and environmental goals.


Energy

The Office represents approximately 80% of California’s energy customers, with an emphasis on residential and small business customers. In 2016, the Office reviewed utility requests related to energy revenue increases and programs that totaled approximately $54 billion statewide. In general, the Office's advocacy efforts on energy issues aided in saving ratepayers approximately $6.1 billion.  

PUBLIC ADVOCATES OFFICE'S EFFORTS ON ENERGY HELPED TO SAVE RATEPAYERS NEARLY $6.1 BILLION

The Office evaluates utility and other stakeholder proposals for both electricity and natural gas in the areas of customer rates, procurement, renewables, climate initiatives, distributed energy resources, transmission and distribution, safety, and consumer protection. The Office scrutinizes utility proposals to determine if they are necessary, will keep rates affordable, promote the safety and reliability of the state's energy infrastructure, and support California's energy goals.

 

Water

The Office advocates for affordable, safe, high-quality, and reliable water service, as well as for robust low-income water programs. The Office supports cost-effective conservation programs and long-term water supply solutions. In fulfilling its mission, The Office represents over 4 million customers (or 1.3 million service connections) of California investor owned water utilities that have more than 10,000 service connections. This represents approximately 15% of all of California's urban water usage customers. 

  PUBLIC ADVOCATES OFFICE'S EFFORTS ON WATER HELPED TO SAVE RATEPAYERS ABOUT $85.8 MILLION

The Office examined approximately $168 million in water utility proposals to increase their revenues in the CPUC's general rate case process. In 2016, the Office's advocacy efforts resulted in about $85.8 million for water customers. In addition to these savings, if the CPUC adopts the Office's recommendations for the pending settlement agreement, water ratepayers would save a total of over $100 million - or approximately $7.78 per customer, per month, in their water bills.

 

Communications

 The Office advocates for the fair treatment of wireline and wireless telephone service customers, as well as to ensure universal access to affordable broadband services. The Office supports programs that promote greater access to services across a variety of technology platforms because communications is a basic societal necessity. 

PUBLIC ADVOCATES OFFICE'S EFFORTS ON COMMUNICATIONS HELPED
CUSTOMERS REALIZE OVER $744 MILLION IN SAVINGS & BENEFITS

The Office communications efforts in 2016 focused on affordability, consumer protection, service quality, and the availability and reliability of voice and broadband services. The Office's efforts resulted in customer savings and benefits of over $744 million, related to rate cases and mergers. The Office reviews requests before the CPUC to ensure that they meet statutory requirements and CPUC policies. This year the Office evaluated a major merger to determine whether it met public interest requirements. 

The Office also analyzed several small telephone company rate case applications. Another significant effort for The Office in 2016 was to analyze competition in California's voice and broadband markets to ascertain whether customers receive safe and reliable service at just and reasonable prices. The Offcie advocated for enhancing the CPUC's minimum service quality rules to ensure customers receive consistent high-quality landline and wireless voice services, regardless of technology.  

 

The Office in Sacramento

The Office maintains a full-time presence in Sacramento, actively participating in the Legislative and Budget processes by working directly with the Governor's office, Legislature, Department of Finance, Legislative Analyst's Office, and other related entities.  

 PUBLIC ADVOCATES OFFICE IS THE VOICE FOR RATEPAYERS IN SACRAMENTO,
PROVIDING ANALYSIS & RECOMMENDATIONS TO BENEFIT CUSTOMERS

In 2016, the Office worked directly with Member offices and testified on many public utilities bills. The Office achieves its statutory mission to represent the customers of investor owned utilities for energy, natural gas, water, and communications in Sacramento by:  

  • Researching complex utility issues and answering questions 
      
  • Providing fact-based technical legislative assistance and recommendations 
      
  • Writing new legislation or bill amendments 
      
  • Taking positions on legislative bills and presenting testimony 
      
  • Providing educational briefings on complex ratemaking, rate design, and other utility policy issues 
      
  • Convening or participating in stakeholder meetings to help resolve the most complex or divisive utility issues 
      
  • Assisting with individual constituent issues to resolve them in a timely manner 
      
  • Participating in district town hall meetings or other constituent gatherings 
      
  • Providing timely updates on CPUC and the Office actions and activities