Friday, July 19, 2024

California Public Utilities Commission: An Overview

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC or PUC) is a state agency that regulates privately owned public utilities in California, such as electric power, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies. The CPUC also authorizes video franchises and oversees programs that support low-income customers, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and public safety.

What does the California Public Utilities Commission do?

The CPUC’s mission is to empower California through access to safe, clean, and affordable utility services and infrastructure. The CPUC fulfills this mission by:

  • Setting rates and tariffs for utility services that are fair, reasonable, and consistent with the law and public policy.
  • Ensuring that utility services are reliable, high-quality, and environmentally sound.
  • Protecting consumers from fraud, abuse, and unauthorized charges.
  • Promoting competition and innovation in the utility markets.
  • Advancing California’s clean energy and climate goals through programs that support energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation, electric vehicles, energy storage, and renewable energy.
  • Implementing policies and programs that address the needs of vulnerable populations, such as low-income customers, disabled persons, seniors, and environmental justice communities.
  • Enhancing public safety by enforcing rules and standards for utility infrastructure, operations, and emergency response.
  • Resolving disputes between utilities and their customers, or between different utilities.
  • Educating and engaging the public and stakeholders through outreach, workshops, hearings, and other forums.

Who regulates public utilities in California?

The CPUC regulates privately owned public utilities in California. However, not all utilities are under the CPUC’s jurisdiction. For example:

  • Publicly owned utilities (such as municipal utilities or irrigation districts) are regulated by their own governing boards or local governments.
  • Rural electric cooperatives are regulated by their own boards of directors and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.
  • Federal power agencies (such as the Bonneville Power Administration or the Western Area Power Administration) are regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy or other federal entities.
  • Investor-owned water companies are regulated by the CPUC, but public water agencies are regulated by the State Water Resources Control Board or local water districts.

What are public utilities in California?

Public utilities are entities that provide essential services to the public for a fee. In California, public utilities include:

  • Electric power companies that generate, transmit, distribute, or sell electricity to customers.
  • Natural gas companies that transport, distribute, or sell natural gas to customers.
  • Telecommunications companies that provide voice, data, video, or internet services to customers.
  • Water companies that supply water for domestic, commercial, industrial, or agricultural use.
  • Railroad companies that operate freight or passenger trains on tracks or rights-of-way.
  • Rail transit companies that operate light rail, subway, monorail, or other rail systems for passenger transportation.
  • Passenger transportation companies that provide charter buses, limousines, airport shuttles, or other transportation services for hire.

Who is in charge of the California Public Utilities Commission?

The CPUC is governed by five commissioners who are appointed by the Governor of California and confirmed by the State Senate. Each commissioner serves a six-year term and may be reappointed. The commissioners elect one of them to serve as the president of the CPUC. The current commissioners are:

  • Alice Busching Reynolds (President)
  • Genevieve Shiroma
  • Darcie L. Houck
  • John Reynolds
  • Karen Douglas

The CPUC also has a staff of about 1,300 employees who work in various divisions and offices that support the commissioners’ decision-making process. The staff includes engineers, economists, analysts, lawyers, auditors, inspectors, mediators, judges, and administrative personnel.

How Does the CPUC Protect the Environment?

The CPUC plays a key role in protecting the environment by advancing the state’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, achieving 100% clean electricity by 2045, expanding renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, promoting energy efficiency measures such as LED lighting and smart thermostats, supporting electric vehicle adoption and charging infrastructure, and ensuring compliance with environmental laws and regulations.

The CPUC also collaborates with other state agencies such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the California Energy Commission (CEC), the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), and the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to coordinate environmental policies and programs.

Some of the CPUC’s environmental initiatives include:

  • The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program requires utilities to procure a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. The current target is 60% by 2030.
  • The Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) process requires utilities to plan for their future electricity needs while meeting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
  • The Energy Efficiency (EE) program provides incentives for customers to reduce their energy consumption through various measures such as lighting upgrades, appliance rebates, and weatherization assistance.
  • The Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) provides rebates for customers who install distributed energy resources such as solar panels, batteries, and fuel cells.
  • The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program (EVIP) funds electric vehicle charging stations in disadvantaged communities.
  • The Wildfire Safety Division (WSD) oversees the utilities’ wildfire mitigation plans and measures to prevent or reduce fire risks from utility equipment.

By regulating utilities in an environmentally responsible manner, the CPUC helps California achieve its climate goals and improve its air quality, water quality, biodiversity, and public health.

How Can You Learn More About the CPUC?

If you want to learn more about the CPUC and its work, you can visit its website at, where you can find:

Information about the CPUC’s commissioners, divisions, offices, programs, initiatives

  • News releases, reports, publications
  • Calendar of events
  • Proceedings database
  • Consumer information
  • Contact information

You can also follow the CPUC on social media platforms such as Twitter (@californiapuc), Facebook (@californiapuc), YouTube (californiapuc), Instagram (@californiapuc), LinkedIn (California Public Utilities Commission), or Medium (@californiapuc).

If you have any questions or comments about the CPUC or your utility services,

You can contact the CPUC’s Public Advisor’s Office at:


Phone: 1-866-849-8390 (toll-free) or 1-415-703-2074

TTY: 1-866-836-7825 (toll-free) or 1-415-703-5282

Mail: Public Advisor’s Office

California Public Utilities Commission

505 Van Ness Avenue

San Francisco CA 94102

The Public Advisor’s Office can assist you with:

Filing a complaint or comment about a utility or a CPUC proceeding

  • Requesting information or assistance
  • Participating in a CPUC proceeding or event
  • Providing feedback or suggestions

The CPUC welcomes your input and involvement in its work to serve the public interest and improve the lives of all Californians.

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