UC Berkeley Conference on Electricity Deregulation Dominated by Private Energy Corporations
Consumer advocates are criticizing an energy industry-funded, University of California conference titled “Electricity Summit : Deregulation or Reregulation?” which is being held in Berkeley today. The conference is expected to be offered as academic justification for the power companies’ argument that electricity deregulation needs to be “mended, not ended.” However, according to advocates, the conference is dominated by the utilities that wrote California’s deregulation law and the unregulated power companies that have profited enormously from it.
Two of the chief sponsors of the conference are Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison and each are represented on the panels. Additionally, two major power companies, Enron Corporation and Calpine Corporation, are conference panelists. The university hosts did not attempt to balance the utility companies’ viewpoint with an equal number of speakers who represent residential ratepayers and small businesses or organizations that advocate an end to the disastrous deregulation experiment and a commitment to public power.
“This is not an unbiased look at energy policy; it is a corporate propaganda machine packaged as an academic conference,” said Douglas Heller, consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), which is critical of Berkeley’s role in this conference. “It is devastating enough to the integrity of the academic institution when power companies fund the investigations into the industry’s structure. That conflict of interest is magnified when the academic institution allows those same power companies to dominate the discussion.”
Next year, the governor and legislators will be forced to respond to the energy deregulation fiasco that crippled San Diego this summer and is on course to do the same throughout the state in the near future. This conference is set-up to give credibility to utility companies’ proposals about California’s energy future, according to FTCR.
“The power companies’ interest is in their profit margins alone, and not the public’s need for reliable, affordable and clean electricity. Because the facts of electricity deregulation contradict their plans, the utilities are funding academic efforts to support their self-serving proposals that will force consumers to foot the bill for this and future crises,” said Heller.
The Governor and policymakers must expand their energy policy options to include a system that mandates affordable electricity rates for consumers and a California power authority, which plans and develops publicly owned power plants to ensure a reliable supply of electricity, according to FTCR.