Palm Springs Files to Become Municipal Utility; Edison Opposes

Date: March 11, 1996

The city of Palm Springs is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to require Southern California Edison to allow the city access to its transmission lines for electricity purchased from other private power generators. Palm Springs would then set up duplicate customer power meters and compete directly for customers with the investor-owned utility. Southern California Edison called a move by the city of Palm Springs to create its own municipal utility, an illegal sham takeover of Edison's Palm Springs electric system.

The city of Palm Springs, which already owns low capacity generation (3 cogenerators generating 2.1 MW) and (12 KV) distribution systems, is attempting to become an electric utility by owning only duplicate customer electric meters, rather than becoming a utility by building its own electric system or acquiring Edison's electric facilities through purchase or state condemnation proceedings.

Bob Foster, Edison's vice president of public affairs said that by installing and owning just the electric meters, the city of Palm Springs is trying to create a mock utility. Edison does not hold an exclusive franchise in Palm Springs.

Art Lions, ex-mayor of Palm Springs and leading advocate of the municipal effort, said that the city simply wants to have the opportunity to get access to wholesale markets to compete with Edison. The city has put out a Request for Proposals, and has interviewed 14 utility and power marketing companies. Palm Springs will be accompanied by PacifiCorp, Portland General, ENRON, CalEnergy, Illinois Power, and San Diego Gas and Electric, as intervenors before the FERC.