Paves Way for Utility to Build Stations, Sell High Pressure Gas
Southern California Gas has moved a step closer to installing equipment for compressed natural gas outside its own facilities, as the California Public Utilities Commission voted 4-1 Thursday in favor of a proposed decision to allow the utility to develop a tariff for compressed gas.
Established CNG providers Clean Energy Fuels and Trillium CNG’s parent Integrys Energy (which itself has subsidiary utility operations) opposed the CPUC proposal.
SoCalGas wants to be able to build facilities to which customers would add dispensing equipment, selling compressed gas according to a new CST – a Compression Services Tariff. The utility would in this way effectively finance infrastructure installation for would-be natural vehicle operators, like municipalities, school districts and private fleets, that otherwise can’t afford it.
‘In the Public Interest’
A new CST, CPUC said, “is in the public interest because it offers additional choice to consumers and makes more widely available a service that reduces the health and environmental impacts from air pollution, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and will lead to an increase in the use of natural gas, an alternative to gasoline and diesel fuel.”
But according to Trillium parent Integrys, “A much simpler, cleaner, effective and efficient approach is available: if [SoCalGas parent] Sempra Energy wishes to compete in this market, the services proposed for this tariff should be provided, not by SoCalGas, but by an unregulated affiliate of Sempra Energy.”
“The decision to allow a utility into a competitive marketplace represents a bad policy choice,” Integrys told the agency.
According to Clean Energy, the new tariff will cause confusion in the marketplace. It “will expose ratepayers to potential cross-subsidies and will harm competition by allowing the utility to leverage unfair advantages in the natural gas vehicle refueling infrastructure market.”
Not a Job for SoCalGas, Established CNG Providers Say
Clean Energy takes issue with an existing SoCalGas web page on NGV fueling too. “Nowhere in the marketing scripts does SoCalGas note that the CST is a competitive service and not a monopoly utility service,” Clean Energy complains.
Clean Energy says it “welcomes competition in the NGV refueling infrastructure market, as long as that competition is fair.”
“SoCalGas would be unable to play on a level playing field,” the firm told CPUC, “because the proposal would leverage monopoly advantages and present a risk of ratepayer cross-subsidies.”
Agreeing with Integrys, Clean Energy said that “The only solution to these problems is to reject the CST and encourage Sempra to offer the service through an unregulated affiliate.”
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Source: California Public Utility Commission ruling and filings