Governor Gavin Newsom got an oversized holiday greetings card from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District with a simple message imploring the governor to consider “giving the gift of safe, affordable, and accountable retail electric service to California communities.”
The card was hand delivered to the governor’s Capitol Office this week by a delegation compose of Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu, Ripon Mayor Jake Parks, Escalon Mayor Robert Swift, SSJID Board President Dave Kamper, and SSJID General Manager Peter Rietkerk.
The group presented the card and shared with Newsom’s Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary Angie Wei the South County perspective on how best to move California forward when it comes to retail power service. The card was signed by hundreds of Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon residents.
The card also asks the governor to “give the gift of public power” and to “make our future merry and bright.”
The governor has expressed interest advancing public power options making sure that the bankruptcy restructuring process makes it easier for communities to acquire retail distribution systems.
The SSJID has been engaged in the formal process to takeover PG&E retail distribution serving the communities of Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon for more than 15 years to lower retail power rates by 15 percent across the board.
Points the group shared with the governor’s staff were:
*A request for Newsom to take action through his office and/or the California Public Utilities Commission to support and implement local government owned electric service alternatives to PG&E.
*PG&E’s lack of performance and investment in public safety, and lack of commitment toward safety in their reorganization plan, proves that implementing statewide priorities for safe, reliable, affordable, and renewable power will continue to be difficult with PG&E. Newsom has committed to making sure PG&E comes out of bankruptcy “reimagined” and focusing on these priorities. It’s time for alternatives to PG&E that put local governments in the driver seat to in fact reimagine, electric service for their local communities.
* State priorities are implemented at the local level in California. If the governor wants to show effective change in the way we prioritize safety, reliability, and affordability, let local governments lead that charge through publicly owned electric utilities. Local ownership for communities is one effective way to implement these priorities, especially for those ready and willing to take on this responsibility. SSJID is committed to implementing these priorities for communities of Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon, and the surrounding rural areas, with a renewed focus on service for our communities.
*SSJID recently joined with three other local agencies, City and County of San Francisco, Valley Clean Energy (which would serve much of Yolo County), and Nevada Irrigation District in submitting a letter to the President of the CPUC urging that the PUC consider public utilities and supportive actions advancing the municipalization efforts of the willing locales.
San Francisco has gone a step farther and has joined SSJID in a bid to convince a federal bankruptcy court that selling them PG&E retail distribution assets within their jurisdiction will give the financially shaky for-profit utility cash to help cover $30 billion in liabilities.
The $2.5 billion San Francisco offer followed SSJID’s $116 million proposal to buy for the PG&E retail system serving Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon along with surrounding farmland.
The last time SSJID made a buyout offer to PG&E in 2016 it was rejected outright.
Critics of efforts to peel of segments of the PG&E retail system and essentially municipalizing them — including PG&E itself — argue that it would place a burden on customers that remain with PG&E such as in Fresno.
The SSJID has argued that is not a given.
The district has pointed to a CPUC analysis of SSJID’s bid to break away from PG&E that was conducted in 2009 to determine whether the move would hurt the remaining PG&E electric customers.
Loss of SSJID customers would
mean a 0.0032 cents per
kilowatt impact on
PG&E’s remaining customers
The CPUC determined it was essentially negligible and that the impact on remaining customers would be 0.0032 cents per kilowatt hours. SSJID accounts for less than half a percent of PG&E’s 5.4 million electric customers. San Francisco with 452,000 electric customers represents about 7 percent of PG&E’s non-natural gas customers. SSJID’s service territory covers 113 square miles while San Francisco consists of 46.89 square miles. Once natural gas service is included, PG&E serves 16 million customers.
PG&E has long argued that rural areas would be left with more expensive power bills if they were forced to allow sections of the retail side of their electrical business municipalize. That flies in the face of the reality of several public utilities that were able break away from PG&E years ago including Trinity Public Utility District that serves the greater Weaverville area in Northern California that has some of the state’s rugged and sparsely populated terrain. Trinity rates are significantly lower than PG&E’s plus they have a much better record when it comes to avoiding wildfires and equipment issues.
Lathrop Irrigation District
power rates are already 5%
lower than PG&E rates
An example of how quickly an upstart retail provider can start creating a gap between PG&E rates and what they charge can be found at River Islands at Lathrop. The Lathrop Irrigation District — that SSJID helped with the establishment of that agency’s retail electrical system — is already selling electricity to its customers that are almost all residential at 5 percent below PG&E rates. The LID plan is to increase the difference between their rates and PG&E as its customer base grows. There are just over 1,000 customers now in the LID system with almost all of them being residentially, ultimately there will be 11,500 residential customers as well as business parks and commercial users.
Part of the reason that can happen is the state guaranteed profit of 10.5 percent goes away
The latest SSJID offer to PG&E — which ironically is part of a 15-year process SSJID launched while PG&E was still in bankruptcy the first time around in 2003 — is part of a new phase of the 110-year-old irrigation district’s efforts to enter the retail power business. The effort is designed to reduce rates 15 percent across the board in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon just as PG&E is pushing for a 12.8 percent rate hike to replace equipment that is aging and has maintenance issues such as the equipment that the utility concedes likely started the November wildfire in Butte County that killed 85 people, destroyed 14,000 homes, and burned 5,000 other buildings.
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