The Ferron Doctrine at the CPUC

Last week, California’s Commissioner Mark Ferron announced that he would be retiring early from his post at the PUC. Mark spent three years working to implement and strengthen the state’s commitment to clean energy. He is now stepping down to fight a personal battle for his own health, having made a lasting positive impact on the well-being of millions of Californians.

California Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Commissioner Ferron served the interests of California ratepayers first and foremost, a commitment that was demonstrated throughout his tenure and captured eloquently in the final report he delivered. You’ll find a transcript of those remarks here. It’s remarkably candid – I highly recommend that you read it for the insight into solar’s road ahead.

Some choice excerpts:

We are fortunate to have utilities in California that are orders of magnitude more enlightened than their brethren in the coal-loving states, although I suspect that they would still dearly like to strangle rooftop solar if they could. Modern utilities are subject to a rapidly evolving business environment, and I wonder whether some top managers at our utilities have the ability or the will to understand and control the far-flung and complex organizations they oversee. And I am very worried about our utilities’ commitment to their side of the regulatory compact. We at the Commission need to watch our utilities’ management and their legal and compliance advisors very, very carefully: it is clear to me that the legalistic, confrontational approach to regulation is alive and well. Their strategy is often: “we will give the Commission only what they explicitly order us to give them”. This is cat and mouse, not partnership, so we have to be one smart and aggressive cat.

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, with the passage of AB327, the thorny issue of Net Energy Metering and rate design has been given over to the CPUC. But recognize that this is a poisoned chalice: the Commission will come under intense pressure to use this authority to protect the interest of the utilities over those of consumers and potential self-generators, all in the name of addressing exaggerated concerns about grid stability, cost and fairness. You – my fellow Commissioners – all must be bold and forthright in defending and strengthening our state’s commitment to clean and distributed energy generation.

A remarkable man. We remain grateful for the good work he did during his time at the CPUC, and we all wish him a full and speedy recovery.

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