Electricity—Direct Access

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Direct Access Service?

Direct Access Service is an optional service that allows customers to purchase electric supplies and additional energy services from a competitive Energy Service Provider (ESP), rather than from Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Although customers will purchase their electricity from an ESP under direct access service, Pacific Gas and Electric Company will continue to deliver the electricity through its transmission and distribution systems.

Who can sign up for this service?

Any electric customer can take advantage of direct access service. However, the right of retail customers to acquire direct access electric service was suspended on September 20, 2001. (see additional info on Suspension of Direct Access Service)

How does Direct Access Service work?

To take advantage of direct access service you will need to contact an ESP. If you agree to the ESP’s terms, conditions and prices, the ESP will submit a request to switch you from bundled Pacific Gas and Electric Company service (electric supply, transmission and distribution service) to direct access service. Your ESP will also inform you of any billing and metering options available to you. If you are not a small customer (generally defined as residential and small commercial) you will be required to have an interval meter in place.

What is an Energy Service Provider (ESP)?

An ESP is an individual or company that contracts directly with its customers to provide electric supplies. ESPs may serve only selected markets, such as large commercial and industrial customers, or all customers including residential

What advice can Pacific Gas and Electric Company offer on selecting an ESP?

We are prohibited from recommending any participating ESP. However, a list of ESPs is available on our website. ESPs are marketing their services throughout Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s service territory. They may use advertising, direct mail, personal contact or other means to promote their services.

Will Pacific Gas and Electric Company lose money if I switch providers?

Pacific Gas and Electric Company does not make a profit on the sale of electricity to its customers due to the way electric utilities are regulated. We make a profit from moving electricity through our transmission and distribution systems as well as from other sources, but not from the sale of electricity itself.

What are my ESP’s responsibilities?

Your ESP is responsible for arranging to have adequate supplies of electricity scheduled for its customers. We are authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to recover costs from an ESP it if fails to meet its scheduling obligations. Pacific Gas and Electric Company serves as the default provider should your ESP fail to arrange for an adequate supply of electricity.

If I choose another provider, will the electricity be different?

No. The quality of the electricity provided to you is the same high quality that you would otherwise receive.

Will I save money?

It depends. ESPs purchase electricity from a number of different sources and through a variety of contractual arrangements, all of which may be priced differently. Some ESPs may offer attractive pricing options or other incentives or the convenience of other services. Choosing another provider may or may not result in savings. You should investigate the various options offered by different ESPs to determine what savings, if any, you would realize. We do not guarantee that every customer wills save money under this service option. Your savings will be based on your ESP’s ability to purchase electricity at a lower cost than Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Can Pacific Gas and Electric Company match an ESP’s offer?

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulates the rates for all of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s customers; therefore, we are not permitted to set our own electric supply prices to match an ESP’s offer.

How do I sign up?

If you are interested in direct access service, you should first contact an ESP and discuss your options. If you decide this service meets your needs and wish to proceed, the ESP will request that we switch your account to direct access service.

If I switch to another provider, how will I be billed?

That depends on the ESP. You could receive one bill that includes charges for the electric supply, transmission and distribution, or you could receive two bills; one from your ESP for the electric supply and one from Pacific Gas and Electric Company for transmission and distribution. The billing terms should be defined in the agreement with your ESP. In any event, you will continue to be responsible for payment of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s transmission and distribution bill, regardless of the payment arrangements made between you and your ESP.

What can I do if I’m not happy with my ESP?

The agreement with your ESP should outline the cancellation process and conditions. If an ESP terminates service to you, you will be returned to Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s bundled service.

What criteria must ESPs meet?

ESPs must register with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and meet its financial and technical viability standards. ESPs must also sign a service agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company and meet our credit requirements before conducting business in our service territory.

Are ESPs regulated?

ESPs are not regulated by the CPUC or Pacific Gas and Electric Company. However, the CPUC carefully monitors the activities of all ESPs. In addition, state law requires that all registered ESPs disclose their prices, terms and conditions of service to you in writing.

What if I have a dispute with my ESP?

Consumers may proceed with a dispute against a registered ESP by either filing a complaint with the CPUC or filing an action in the judicial court system.

If I buy my electricity from another provider, whom do I call in case of an emergency?

You should continue to call Pacific Gas and Electric Company in case of any emergency involving electric service. We will also continue to respond to your safety-related calls and maintain the distribution system leading to your home. We can be reached at 1-800-743-5000.

If I purchase my electricity from another provider, will additional power lines be put overhead?

Except in very rare instances, no additional power lines will be installed. Electricity purchased from ESPs will be distributed through our existing transmission and distribution systems.

I receive assistance through California Alternate Rate for Energy (CARE) and quality for other low-income programs. How will all these changes affect me?

Changes to the electric industry do not mean low-income services will be cut. The state legislature has passed a law – which we endorse – that says efforts to protect the environment and programs to help low-income customers with their energy bills will stay in place.