Frequently Asked Questions About the California Energy Commission

What is the California Energy Commission?

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy planning and policy agency. Its formal title is the California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission.

When was it created?

It was created in 1974 by the passage and signing into law of the Warren-Alquist State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Act (Public Resources Code 25000 et seq.), commonly called the Warren-Alquist Act. It was authored by Senators Charles Warren and Alfred Alquist and signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan. The Commission formally came into existence on January 1, 1975.

What are the Commission's duties?

The Commission has five original Legislative mandates:

  1. Develop and implement California's energy policy
  2. Forecast future statewide energy needs and evaluate electricity resource acquisition plans
  3. Site and license thermal power plants of 50 megawatts or larger to meet statewide energy needs
  4. Promote energy efficiency and a wide range of energy conservation programs and regulations; and develop renewable energy resources and alternative energy technologies
  5. Plan for and direct state response to energy emergencies under the auspices of the Chairman

Additionally, the Commission has been directed by the state Legislature to direct energy research programs on electricity, natural gas, and transportation, and to support and fund renewable energy programs.

Who makes up the Commission?

The Governor nominates and the Senate approves five people to act as full-time Energy Commissioners. They are appointed to staggered five-year terms of office. From the five members, the Governor also picks a Chairman and Vice Chair for two-year terms. Each of the appointees comes from a specific background: the law, economics, environmental studies or sciences, engineering or science, and the public at large.

How is the Commission funded?

The basic programs of the Commission and most of its staff are funded through a surcharge on electricity consumption. State law directs electric utility companies to gather a state energy surcharge. As of November 8, 2010, this is set at .29 of one mil ($0.00029) per kilowatt/hour (kWh) of electricity consumed by all electrical customers. These funds are segregated in the state treasury as the Energy Resources Program Account (ERPA). For a home that consumes 600 kWh of electricity in a month, the contribution to ERPA is 17.4 cents per month or $2.08 per year. Additionally, the Commission manages public goods charge monies collected by the investor-owned utilities for renewable energy, research and development, and other federal and state funds for specific programs.

For more on the funding of the Commission, please see our Fiscal Year Budget Highlights.