Out West student blog

Voting Meetings at the California Public Utilities Commission

The California Public Utilities Commission meets to vote. (photo credit: EJ Baik).

By EJ Baik, PhD. '22
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Major: Energy Resources Engineering
Intern, Commissioner Rechtshaffen's office, California Public Utilities Commission

Every other Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission holds public meetings where at least three of the five commissioners (a quorum) meet to discuss and vote on proposed policies, rules, and other issues. As I sit at the August 1st meeting, I realize that this is where it happens! This is where policy and regulation as we know is implemented.

I provided a briefing to the Commissioner on several of the more than 40 items that will be voted on today. Briefing the Commissioner involves comprehensively summarizing the issue at hand, the comments made by participating parties, the proposed policy decision, and the impact that it may have on the public, disadvantaged communities, businesses, and the environment. A critical part of the briefing involves a discussion about whether to vote 'yes' for the proposed decision or, if there are too many concerns, to vote 'no.'

The briefings are not only challenging because the topics span a wide range, but also because they require good judgment and insight in assessing the proposed decision. Throughout the summer, the advisors to the Commissioner have provided me with great tips and suggestions in capturing the essence of proposed decisions and being able to provide effective briefings. Overall, the briefing process has been very exciting and rewarding, as I am learning about and possibly even informing tangible policy decisions that may be implemented.

One of the items to be voted on today involves the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), an initiative with which I was directly involved and supported. To see an item that I helped draft and design be voted on and implemented as a regulation was one of the most rewarding moments of my internship so far.

Now that the changes to the program have been implemented, I would want to continue monitoring the progress of the SGIP and reflect on whether the program as we designed it had the impacts that we wanted it to have. Throughout my internship, I am learning that policy design and implementation is an ever-on-going learning process. The people I have met and worked with at the CPUC make sure that they reflect changing technologies and trends in their policies. They also review the impacts that their policies have had and update the policy as needed to make it more relevant and effective. This dynamic and forward-looking process has provided me with a great learning opportunity, and I look forward to the rest of my time at the CPUC!

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