The Office of Ratepayer Advocates - ORA - is the independent consumer advocate within the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that advocates solely on behalf of investor owned utility 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 telecommunications utilities are represented at the CPUC and in other forums that affect consumers’ utility bills, environmental benefits, and the reliability and safety of those services.
ORA has a staff of 142 professionals consisting of engineers, economists, scientists, and auditors with expertise in regulatory issues related to the electricity, natural gas, water, and telecommunications industries in California. ORA’s staff performs in-depth review and analyses of regulatory policy issues and utility proposals, for funding that total 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. In 2013, ORA participated in 193 CPUC proceedings and filed approximately 560 pleadings to aid the CPUC in developing the record from which Commissioners formulated their final decisions. ORA lobbied decision-makers on behalf of ratepayers nearly 200 times in2013 to ensure that the consumer perspective was heard. ORA’s $24,375,000 budget represents a small fraction of ratepayers’ investment compared with the more than $1.5 billion in savings ORA has achieved on behalf of ratepayers in 2013. This savings was realized in the form of lower utility revenues and avoided rate increases. For every dollar customers spent on ORA in 2013, they saved approximately $61 across their utility bills. Additionally, ORA influenced the outcome of numerous CPUC policies, decisions, and California legislation that will positively impact ratepayers.
Each year ORA creates on Online Annual Report that consists of the Report it submits to the Legislature as well as a list of highlights of its efforts during the previous year, which begin below. These areas of Energy, Water, and Communications click through to featured highlights of ORA's 2013 work, and then to full webpages for greater detail.
ORA represents the residential and small business customers of California’s investor owned energy utilities, most notably Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison Company (Edison), San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas). ORA also represents the customers of California’s smaller investor owned utilities. Investor-owned utilities serve approximately 80 percent of all California’s energy customers. ORA evaluates utility and other stakeholder for both electricity and natural gas in the areas of Customer Rates, Procurement, Renewables, Transmission and Distribution, Demand-side Resources, and Consumer Protection. In 2013, ORA reviewed utility requests for energy revenue increases and programs that totaled approximately $38 billion statewide. ORA’s advocacy efforts on energy issues aided in saving ratepayers approximately $1.5 billion.
ORA represents 1.3 million customers of investor owned Class A water utilities (more than 10,000 service connections) & Class B water utilities (less than 10,000, but more than 5,000 service connections), serving approximately 6 million people in the state of California. The CPUC has regulatory jurisdiction over approximately 20 percent of all of California’s urban water usage customers. ORA audits water utility requests for additional revenues to help ensure service is high-quality, prudent, and affordable. ORA represents customers at the CPUC and participates in other statewide planning processes such as the Department of Water Resources and on the Water-Energy Team of the California Action Team.
ORA advocates for the fair treatment of wireline and wireless telephone service customers, as well as to ensure that there is equal access to broadband services at reasonable rates. ORA’s Communications efforts in 2013 primarily focused on affordability, consumer protection, and service quality. ORA supports programs that promote greater access to telephonic service across communications technologies, given that telecommunications is a basic societal necessity for consumers. In 2013, ORA reviewed nearly $500 million in telecommunications and broadband program requests. ORA advocated for consumer protections, basic access to quality service, and to keep costs affordable.
ORA actively participates in the Legislative and Budget processes in Sacramento by working directly with the Governor’s office, Legislature, Department of Finance, Legislative Analyst’s Office, and other related entities. 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.
ORA does this by maintaining a full-time presence in Sacramento. In 2013, ORA worked directly with Member offices and testified on many public utilities bills.