ROSEMEAD, Calif.-Southern California Edison officials applauded two regulatory decisions that may enable the state to better manage electric power shortfalls when demand far exceeds available supply.

The California Public Utilities Commission recently approved SCE’s request to reopen its business and residential “interruptible” programs to new participants and gave the utility authority to purchase power in additional markets.

“We requested both rulings because we believe they will help the state address its current power supply crisis,” said Lynda Ziegler, SCE director of business and regulatory planning.

“Interruptible” programs offer customers special rate discounts in return for their willingness to temporarily reduce their energy usage by certain levels when statewide power reserves drop below 5 percent. The California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO), the nonprofit agency responsible for securing power supply for most of the state, has declared eight such emergencies so far this summer.

Of the state’s utilities, SCE has the largest portfolio of interruptible participants-approximately 127,000 customers enrolled in three different programs (residential, agricultural and business). Closed since 1996, these programs are a critical component in helping Cal-ISO manage supply and demand for power during heatwave conditions. Combined they provide demand relief of approximately 2,400 MW. (Statewide, the portfolio is about 3,000 MW). Now, with approval to reopen the programs, SCE hopes to attract an additional 350 to 400 MW of support to assist with the state’s capacity needs.

The Commission’s favorable ruling on bilateral power contracts authorizes SCE to purchase limited amounts of power outside the California Power Exchange, the trading market established by the state’s deregulation program.

“We believe bilateral contracts will attract additional supplies to California at a time when they are sorely needed,” said Gary Stern, SCE manager of market monitoring and analysis.