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The California Public Utilities Commission warned local governments this week that their plans to buy and sell power could create another energy crisis.

Michael Picker, president of the five-member commission, took aim at community choice aggregators, or CCAs, in a research report the commission released on Thursday, and in an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee. These government-run agencies are taking business away from the state’s three major power companies. The city of San Diego is thinking about forming a CCA so it can buy and sell green energy.

Picker compared the trend unfavorably to the “deregulation” that set off the energy crisis in 2000 and 2001.

“In the last deregulation, we had a plan, however flawed,” Picker wrote. “Now, we are deregulating electric markets through dozens of different decisions and legislative actions, but we do not have a plan.”

Ironically, the Legislature gave cities the ability to form CCAs in response to the energy crisis. They’ve taken off. By the end of the year, a quarter of the power sold in California will be sold by CCAs. Picker appears worried the lack of centralized regulatory oversight by his commission could create chaos, though CCAs are subject to some rules created following the energy crisis.

CCA advocates rejected Picker’s analogy and suggested it was fear-mongering.

The effect of the CPUC’s action is unknown. All it did is release a paper, but that will set off a round of public comment and then could result in some new regulations. A flurry of lobbying is likely in coming weeks.

Picker has long had harsh words for CCAs. He once described them as “forced collectivization,” presumably a reference to agricultural policies in the Soviet Union that led to the death of millions.

This post originally ran in the May 4 Sacramento Report.

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

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