2015 ORA ANNUAL REPORT

ORA - The Office of Ratepayer Advocates - is the independent consumer advocate within the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that advocates solely on behalf of investor owned utility customers (aka ratepayers). As the only state entity charged with this responsibility, ORA plays a critical role in ensuring that the customers of California’s energy, water, and communications utilities are represented at the 2015 Annual Report Cover JPGCPUC and in other forums that affect customers’ utility bills, environmental benefits, and the reliability and safety of those services. 

ORA's Mission is to Obtain
the Lowest Possible Rates Consistent with
Safe and Reliable Utility Service

ORA's statutory mission is to obtain the lowest possible rates for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels. In fulfilling this goal, ORA also advocates for customer and environmental protections. As the only state entity charged with this responsibility, ORA plays a critical role in ensuring that the customers of California’s energy, water, and telecommunications utilities are represented at the CPUC and in other forums that affect customers’ utility bills, environmental benefits, and reliability and safety of those services. 

On or before January 10 of each year, ORA is required to submit its Annual Report to the Legislature, providing:  

  • ORA’s Staff: The number of personnel years assigned to ORA and a comparison of the staffing levels for a five-year period.
  • ORA's Budget: The total dollars expended by ORA in the prior year, estimated total dollars expended in the current year, and the total dollars proposed for appropriation in the following budget year.
  • ORA’s Workload Standards and Measures: The number of CPUC proceedings, pleadings, and education and outreach in which ORA participates in the reporting year.

In 2015, ORA...

  • Participated in 192 CPUC proceedings.
  • Filed approximately 605 pleadings to aid the CPUC in developing the record from which Commissioners formulated their final decision.
  • Met with decision-makers on behalf of ratepayers 114 times.

In 2015 ORA Helped to Save Customers $5.3 Billion
Which Averages About $191 Across Utility Bills

ORA’s 2015 budget of $27.7 million, including reimbursable contracts, represents a small fraction of ratepayers’ investment compared with the more than $5.3 billion in savings ORA helped to achieve on behalf of ratepayers in 2015. This savings was realized in the form of lower utility revenues and avoided rate increases. For every dollar customers spent on ORA in 2015, they saved approximately $191 across their utility bills. Additionally, ORA influenced the outcome of numerous CPUC policies, decisions, and California legislation that will positively impact ratepayers.

ORA has a staff of 147 professionals consisting of engineers, economists, scientists, and auditors with expertise in regulatory issues related to the electricity, natural gas, water, and communications industries in California. ORA’s staff performs in-depth review and analyses of regulatory policy issues and utility proposals, for funding that totals in the tens of billions of dollars, in order to determine whether utility requests are in the interest of the ratepayers who fund utility activities through their utility bills. ORA also supports environmental policies that benefit customers and seeks to ensure that utility actions comport with CPUC rules and California environmental laws and policy goals.

Energy

ORA represents approximately 80% of California’s energy customers with an emphasis on residential and small business customers. ORA evaluates utility and other stakeholder proposals for both electricity and natural gas in the areas of Customer Rates, Procurement, Renewables, Climate Initiatives, Distributed Energy Resources, Transmission and Distribution, and Consumer Protection.

ORA Represents 80% of California Energy Customers
and in 2015 Reviewed nearly $100 Billion in Utility Requests

ORA reviewed utility proposals for accountability and keeping rates affordable, while supporting California’s energy goals and promoting the safety and reliability of the state’s energy infrastructure. ORA scrutinized the requests of California’s investor owned utilities seeking to significantly increase customer rates. In 2015, ORA reviewed utility requests related to energy revenue increases and programs that totaled more than $96 billion statewide. ORA’s advocacy efforts on energy issues aided in saving ratepayers approximately $5.3 billion.

 

Water

ORA advocates for affordable, safe, high-quality, and reliable water service, as well as for robust low-income water programs. ORA supports cost-effective conservation programs and long-term water supply solutions. In fulfilling this mission, ORA represents over 6 million customers of California investor owned water utilities with more than 10,000 service connections, approximately 20 percent of all of California’s urban water usage customers.

ORA Represents Over 6 Million California Water Customers
and in 2015 Examined About $40 Million in Utility Requests to Increase Rates

In 2015, ORA examined approximately $40 million in water utility requests to increase revenues across four general rate cases. If the CPUC adopts ORA’s recommendations for all four rate cases, water ratepayers would save over $9 million – or approximately $1.50 per customer per month on their water bills. Three of the rate cases are pending before the CPUC, and include partial settlements that ORA negotiated with water utilities.

ORA Focused on Issues to Help California Mitigate the Drought

ORA also focused on Drought-related issues to help water utilities conserve water and reduce associated energy use by petitioning the CPUC to open a proceeding to develop partnerships between energy and water utilities. We also supported rate design reforms that align the appropriate price signals with the state’s conservation policy goals to eliminate discretionary outdoor water use.

 

Communications

ORA’s Communications efforts in 2015 primarily focused on affordability, consumer protection, service quality, and the reliability of voice and broadband Internet services. This year ORA evaluated several merger and acquisition requests to ensure they were in the public interest.

In 2015 ORA Examined 3 Major Mergers and Acquisitions
to Ensure they are in the Interest of Millions of Californians

ORA also worked to shape the CPUC’s new Rate Case Plan for small telephone companies, which will guide the review of setting rates and subsidies in high cost regions of California. Additionally, ORA advocated for enhanced customer protections to ensure customers receive consistent high-quality services.

 

ORA in Sacramento

ORA maintains a full-time presence in Sacramento, actively participating in the Legislative and Budget processes by working directly with the Governor’s office, Legislature, Department of Finance, Legislative Analyst’s Office, and other related entities.

ORA Represented Customers' Interests in Sacramento

In 2015, ORA worked directly with Member offices and testified on many public utilities bills. ORA achieves its statutory mission to represent the customers of investor owned utilities for energy, natural gas, water, and communications in Sacramento by:

  • Taking positions on bills.
  • Testifying in informational and bill hearings.
  • Providing technical legislative and constituent assistance.
  • Participating in working groups.
  • Providing updates on CPUC and ORA actions.