The last time South San Joaquin Irrigation District asked for the Manteca City Council’s support in their bid to enter the retail power business when they went before the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission, the answer was “keep us out of it.”
Now that the SSJID is asking municipal leaders again, Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford expects the 100-year-old irrigation district that literally provided water to make Manteca grow from a wide spot in the road to a city will get a different reception.
The City Council Tuesday will vote on whether to support the SSJID as it starts its bid to reapply for LAFCO authorization. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 Center St.
“They have proven themselves since then,” Weatherford said of the last time SSJID made a similar request of the city for their support. “They have delivered as promised on treated water and solar power. PG&E also has had a tremendous amount of rate increases since then as well.”
Weatherford is referring to the Nick DeGroot South County Water Treatment Plant that provides state-of-the-art treated water to Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy. It was SSJID that spearheaded the effort to offer its water resources to the cities and oversaw construction as well as the current operation of the plant.
The solar energy refers to the adjoining Robert Schulz Solar Farm that provides virtually all the electricity needed to run the water treatment plant. That eliminates a $450,000 PG&E power bill and reduces the three cities’ power cost of running the treatment plant by the promised 15 percent. The money the cities still pay for power goes to pay off construction and operation of the solar farm.
The only person currently sitting on the council who went on record the last time around one way or another was Debby Moorhead who was recruited by PG&E to serve as the executive director of the organization they set up to drum up public opposition to SSJID – Stop the Power Grab. She opposed SSJID.
Moorhead, who is chief executive officer of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce, has stated that business organization has decided not to take a position this time around. Previously, they came out stridently against SSJID’s bid using the possible use of eminent domain as the reason why. The PG&E used the chamber’s position and the lack of council support at the LAFCO hearing two years ago as evidence the community didn’t support SSJID in its efforts to reduce retail power rates by 15 percent in Manteca, Ripon, or Escalon.
The resolution before the council supports the SSJID application before LAFCO. It notes SSJID will provide “significant benefits to individual taxpayers, businesses, and local government entities” including:
•reducing customers’ electric rates by 15 percent.
•improving the local economy.
•entrusting electrical service policies and practices to locally elected officials who are directly accountable to voters in the communities SSJID serves.
•increasing jobs and job opportunities in local communities.
•improving customer service.
•increasing the reliability of service.
•increasing the availability and funding for public benefits.
•more equitably distributing the benefits of SSJID’s ownership interest in the Tri-Dam Project and other low-cost hydroelectric generating facilities.
The SSJID move comes at the same time PG&E is moving forward with yet another series of rate increases of 10 percent in the coming year. PG&E is also operating with a protected profit margin of 11.35 percent as the acceptable return on its equity as authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Currently PG&E provides Manteca with a 2 percent franchise fee on its total electrical sales within the city limits that accounted for $495,000 in general fund receipts for the city in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The SSJID is committing to give the city a 2.5 percent franchise fee. If SSJID and not PG&E was the retail provider in Manteca last fiscal year, it would have meant $99,000 or a total of $594,000. That is roughly the salary and benefits of a public safety employee for one year.
The city also would benefit from the 15 percent reduction in electrical bills. With electrical costs to run the city pushing $2 million a year, that would mean a $300,000 annual savings. The bottom line is the City of Manteca would be $399,000 better off financially every year with SSJID as compared to PG&E.
Similar savings would be experienced by Manteca Unified School District, the City of Ripon, and City of Escalon. Ripon Unified School District, and Escalon Unified School District.
Even the SSJID would be money ahead. By supplying its own power to run the various district irrigation pumps, the district would save $40,000 a year.
In addition, SSJID is working with Manteca to potentially eliminate much of its expensive power load for the wastewater treatment plant. Unlike PG&E that caps solar plants at a million kilowatts, SSJID would have no problem with a Manteca system that could wipe out the $1.2 million annual power bill to run the wastewater treatment plant.
PG&E commits 2.85 percent of its revenue to energy savings and assistance program. SSJID’s plan is to provide 4 percent.