Contrary to popular belief, electric competition in California was not completely suspended in 2001. In fact, some customers retained the ability to shop for an alternate electric provider to find a lower rate.
Even more customers were granted this choice in 2010 as a partial re-opening of choice, known as "direct access" in California, was implemented at Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric.
In March 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission established a four-year phase-in of new direct access load caps, equal to 9,520 GWh at Pacific Gas & Electric, 11,710 GWh at Southern California Edison, and 3,562 GWh at San Diego Gas & Electric. This allowed many customers who had previously been locked out of choice an opportunity to shop for a lower electric rate.
The phase-in allowed up to 35% of space available under the electric choice cap to be filled in 2010, up to 70% in 2011, up to 90% in 2012, and up to 100% in 2013. California holds periodic "Notice of Intent" periods for customers to attempt to receive an allocation under these load caps and be assigned the right to take direct access.
As of early 2011, the first three phases have been completely filled, and during each enrollment window, the load caps were hit instantly with a significant amount of customers denied the right to shop for electricity because the cap was hit -- indicating a high demand among consumers for choice in their electric supplier.
Under direct access, a customer's delivery and supply charges are separated. The utility continues to deliver the customer's power, but the customer can choose an alternate provider for electricity supply, in order to obtain a lower rate or a customized product, such as green energy. The utility continues to handle all line maintenance and service outages.
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