The Repeal of Electricity Deregulation and Blackout Prevention Act initiative that qualified for Californias November Special Election Tuesday, June 20, is designed to bring stability to the market according to proponent The Utility Reform Network (TURN), but the initiative's effect on construction of new energy facilities seems uncertain.
The initiative, which collected 417,390 valid signatures to meet the requirement of 411,198 to qualify, would prohibit new direct-access contracts by which large companies agree to purchase power from a provider other than the area's local utility company.
"Because the direct-access door was left open, it causes uncertainty, because utilities dont know whether customers will leave and cant plan new facilities because they run the risk of getting stuck with more power than they need," says San Francisco-based TURNs Media Advocacy Director Mindy Spatt.
San Jose-based Calpines Vice President of Public Relations Bill Highlander counters that the initiative would introduce more uncertainty. Calpine, a developer of independent power-generation plants, has three large direct-access contracts that would be grandfathered in under the initiative and four plants, including one in the power-hungry San Francisco Bay Area, permitted and ready to begin construction as soon as contracts are secured to allow financing. "This does not help bring more plants online," Highlander says. "It is based on AB2006 that the governor vetoed last year and it is not a good idea."
The initiative, which is supported by the Alliance for a Better California, also would accelerate the states deadline to buy 20% of its electricity from renewable-energy sources from 2017 to 2010 and would require integrated resource planning and mandate reserve-margin requirements for all retail providers.