By Miriam Raftery
January 17, 2014 (Sacramento) – California Public Utilities Commissioner Mark J. Ferron has resigned due to his battle with cancer, the CPUC announced. In his January 16 final report, Ferron voiced concerns over utility companies’ efforts to quash rooftop solar and pressures placed on commissioners from the utility industry.
Ferron played a key role in major CPUC decisions impacting San Diego County. He was among two commissioners who recommended denial of the Quail Brush Power Plant application, finding no need for the facility at that time, though the CPUC left the door open for the applicant to resubmit the proposal this year. Ferron also authored a CPUC decision to deny SDG&E’s request to charge ratepayers for liability costs of wildfires caused by SDG&E lines or equipment.
"We are fortunate to have utilities in California that are orders of magnitude more enlightened than their brethren in the coal-loving states, although I suspect that they would still dearly like to strangle rooftop solar if they could,” he wrote. “Modern utilities are subject to a rapidly evolving business environment, and I wonder whether some top managers at our utilities have the ability or the will to understand and control the far-flung and complex organizations they oversee. And I am very worried about our utilities’ commitment to their side of the regulatory compact. We at the Commission need to watch our utilities’ management and their legal and compliance advisors very, very carefully: it is clear to me that the legalistic, confrontational approach to regulation is alive and well. Their strategy is often: “we will give the Commission only what they explicitly order us to give them”. This is cat and mouse, not partnership, so we have to be one smart and aggressive cat."
He also spoke out about net metering. "Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, with the passage of AB327, the thorny issue of Net Energy Metering and rate design has been given over to the CPUC. But recognize that this is a poisoned chalice: the Commission will come under intense pressure to use this authority to protect the interest of the utilities over those of consumers and potential self-generators, all in the name of addressing exaggerated concerns about grid stability, cost and fairness. You – my fellow Commissioners - all must be bold and forthright in defending and strengthening our state’s commitment to clean and distributed energy generation."
Ferron was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the CPUC in March 2011. Prior to his appointment, he spent 25 years in global finance, banking, and operations.
In response to Cmomissioner Ferron’s resignation, CPUC President Michael Peevey praised Ferron as an “invaluable asset” who has “brought a real world perspective to our work. He is a man with tremendous inner strength. We wish him the best and look forward to the day when we can raise our glasses in a toast to his recovery.”