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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

California California Energy Facility CPUC Process (7-CA-c)

The California Public Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over public utilities. Public utilities must obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) before constructing a facility with a net generating capacity over 50 MW.

The term "Public utilities" includes an “electric corporation… where the service is performed for, or the commodity is delivered to, the public or any portion thereof.” See Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 216. An electric corporation includes “every corporation or person owning, controlling, operating, or managing any electric plant for compensation within this state, except where electricity is generated on or distributed by the producer through private property solely for its own use or the use of its tenants and not for sale or transmission to others.” See Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 218.

Consequently, electric public utilities proposing to construct a thermal power plant subject to The Warren-Alquist Energy Resources Conservation and Development Act (the Application for Certification (AFC) process) or a power plant over 50 megawatts (MW) must receive a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the CPUC. The CPCN cannot be issued until the CEC issues a siting permit.

The CPUC must find that the proposed facility is necessary to promote the safety, health, comfort, and convenience of the public. The CPUC will take factors such as community values, recreational and park areas, historical and aesthetic values, and environmental impact into consideration when deciding whether to issue a CPCN. A proposed project that is completing the AFC process will not be subject to an environmental review process by the CPUC.

Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 1001

General Order No. 131-D

California Energy Facility CPUC Process Process

7-CA-c.1 to 7-CA-c.2 – Is the Power Plant Completing the AFC Process

If the public utility is building a power plant completing the AFC process (or a comparable process delegated to a county), the public utility must complete the CPCN process under Section VII of General Order No. 131-D. Otherwise the public utility should initiate the CPCN process under Section VIII of General Order No. 131-D.

CPCN for Non-AFC Facilities:

7-CA-c.3 – Mail Copies of NOI Filing, AFC, and CEC’s Final Report to CPUC

When a public utility files an AFC with the California Energy Commission (CEC), the public utility must mail six copies of the NOI filing by the CEC, the AFC, and the CEC’s Final Report in the NOI proceedings to the Executive Director of the CPUC.

General Order No. 131-D, section VII (B).

7-CA-c.4 – Application for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity

The public utility must complete and submit an Application for CPCN to the CPUC no later than 30 days after acceptance for filing of the AFC. The application must include:

  • A description of the proposed generating facility and related facilities and the manner in which the facilities will be constructed;
  • A map and a description of the location of the proposed power plant and related facilities;
  • A listing of federal, state, regional, county, district, or municipal agencies from which approvals have been obtained or will be required to construct and operate the proposed power plant;
  • Load and resource data setting forth recorded and estimated loads (both energy and demand), available capacity and energy and margins for five years actual and twenty years estimated on the same basis, as reported to the CEC, including a statement of compatibility of the proposed generating facility with the most recent biennial report issued by the CEC pursuant to Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 25309;
  • Existing rated and effective operating capacity of generating plants and the planned additions for a ten year period;
  • Estimated cost information for the plant and associated facilities for a period of 12 years, year by year from when the plant begins operation and comparative costs of other alternatives considered on a levelized or year by year basis depending on availability; and
  • Such additional information and data as required by the CPUC for a full understanding and evaluation.

General Order No. 131-D, Appendix B.

7-CA-c.5 – Mail Copy of Application for CPCN to CEC and Other Interested Parties

The public utility must mail a copy of the Application for CPCN to the CEC and to every person, corporation, organization, or public agency that has intervened in the CEC’s AFC proceeding.

General Order No. 131-D

7-CA-c.6 to 7-CA-c.7 – Review Application for Completeness

Within 30 days after the public utility files the Application for the CPCN, the CPUC must review the application and notify the utility in writing of any deficiencies in the submitted information and data. The public utility will then have 60 days to correct any deficiencies or explain in writing why the utility is unable to do so.

General Order No. 131-D, section VII (E).

7-CA-c.8 – Hold Public Hearings (As Necessary)

After the CPUC receives a completed or corrected Application for CPCN, the CPUC holds any public hearings necessary for the application, while the utility’s AFC application is being processed by the CEC.

General Order No. 131-D, section VII (E).

7-CA-c.9 to 7-CA-c.10 – Does the CPUC Approve the Application

Within 30 days after the CEC approves the AFC, the CPUC must issue a decision on the Application for CPCN, unless a later date for issuance of the decision is mutually agreed upon by the CPUC and the utility.

General Order No. 131-D, section VII (F).

7-CA-c.11 to c.14 – Does the AFC Set Forth Conditions Not Adequately Considered in the CPCN

In the event the CEC’s AFC proceedings sets forth requirements and conditions that were not adequately considered in the CPUC’s CPCN proceedings and the requirements or conditions will have a significant impact on the economic and financial feasibility of the project, on the rates of the utility, or on utility system reliability, the public utility, the CPUC, or any other party may request that the CPUC hold a public hearing on the implications of the new requirements or conditions. If the CPUC grants a hearing, the hearing must take place within 30 days after the filing of the request and the CPUC must issue a final decision on the issue within 90 days of the hearing. The CPUC can amend the final CPCN to reflect the decision.

General Order No. 131-D, section VII (G).

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