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SSJID could save Manteca $330K yearly

Overall community savings pegged at $12M annually

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SSJID could save Manteca $330K yearly

The Robert Schulz Solar Farm project undertaken by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District is already saving Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy 15 percent on the power bills needed to run the surface wa...

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED June 1, 2009 2:41 a.m.

You think your personal PG&E bill is staggering consider what you pay as a Manteca taxpayer and ratepayer.

The yearly power bill for the wastewater treatment plant comes to $1,179,440.

It cost $746,570 annually to run various wells operated by the water operations.

To run the lights and computers in just one department – law enforcement – it costs $72,800 a year while the library is $40,020 annually.

Add it all up and the city spends well over $2.2 million annually on PG&E electric bills.

That alone is reason enough for Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford to support the South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s efforts to purchase the PG&E retail system serving Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon at fair market price.

“The time is right for us (the City Council) to support SSJID in its efforts,” Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford said. “They have proven they can deliver on promises.”

The promise Weatherford is referring to is reducing retail power rates across the board 15 percent in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon. That would translate into a $330,000 annual savings for the City of Manteca alone.

Based on a study performed two years ago, SSJID expects to save current PG&E customers collectively $12 million year as well as upgrade service once they assume control of the system.

Weatherford noted the SSJID has taken it upon themselves to put a solar farm in place that is already delivering a 15 percent savings on power costs to the three cities of Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy for the treatment of surface water.

The mayor pointed to SSJID’s 100-year track record of delivering dependable, secure and clean water as well as 55 years of the same performance generating and delivering power. He added that the SSJID was the one that stepped up to solve urban water supply issues when they didn’t have to do so.

The SSJID’s plan – which they are preparing to go back to the San Joaquin Local Formation Agency Commission to seek clearance to move forward - will keep the city whole in terms of the franchise fee that PG&E pays. The fee is one percent of the gross electrical sales which comes to $495,000 based on current sales. SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields has said the plan is to keep the Manteca’s dollar amount intact which would mean a slightly higher percentage than what PG&E is currently paying.

“SSJID doesn’t have to make a profit,” Weatherford said.

PG&E has its profit margin protected by the California Public utilities Commission. While other business concerns worry about making a profit or breaking even, the CPUC guarantees PG&E rates that allow it a profit margin of a little over 11 percent.

PG&E is what is called a quasi-public agency. It is granted powers normally reserved to public agencies in order to generate a profit. It is one of the largest users of eminent domain that allows them to put power poles wherever they wish to minimize their costs.

In the previous application, PG&E waged a success full campaign to block SSJID based on eminent domain even though the LAFCO legal counsel indicated that the agency board had to judge the application on the merits of SSJID’s ability to provide service and whether it was legal to do so not whether they were opposed to the use of eminent domain which PG&E uses often and local agencies use rarely.

Weatherford also said elected officials have a responsibility to families, senior citizens, and businesses that employee people to help provide the lowest possible power rates.

“It is a necessity just like water,” the mayor said. “Imagine what 15 percent lower power bills would mean to a little old lady on liked income.”

PG&E has made campaign contributions to City Council candidates in recent elections including Steve DeBrum.

DeBrum, for his part, has indicated that he believes the SSJID proposal warrants consideration.

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