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Power play: 51 months & counting
2nd study on lowering electrical rates 15% almost done
SSJID is still pushing to reduce Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon electricity costs by 15 percent. - photo by HIME ROMERO

It took America less time to beat back the Axis Powers in World War II than it has a low-profile bureaucracy to process an application aimed at putting in place 15 percent lower electricity rates throughout Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.

It’s been 51 months since the San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission first received South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s request to add retail power to its service repertoire that already includes wholesale power generation — complete with 53 plus years of reliable deliveries to PG&E — as well as provide water for farm and urban use.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields expects to deliver the latest exhaustive study requested by LAFCo by mid-December. Along with it there will be a separate report done by a consultant off a list of recommended firms LAFCo provided to conduct an independent analysis of the study. Shields said preliminary indications by Mentier Harnish show that the district is in an even better position financially to deliver on its promises than the original study and independent analysis done years ago.

LAFCo had taken so long to review the initial study that the LAFCo staff decided the financial data was too outdated and ordered yet another round of studies.

Shields said the study and the independent analysis will provide LAFCo with all of the information staff indicated they needed for the commission to make a final decision. He expects a final vote to be taken by spring.

LAFCo’s blessing is required before SSJID can take steps needed to obtain PG&E facilities.

A request by the county agency for what amounted to a second feasibility study on retail electricity may end up costing consumers in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon $12 million over the next year.

That’s how the South San Joaquin Irrigation District board views a San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission demand for a redo of an independent consultant’s report completed three years ago that concluded SSJID has the wherewithal to deliver reliable retail electricity at rates at least 15 percent below what PG&E charges.

The SSJID board has pointed out that every year’s delay in moving forward equates to $12 million more that consumers, businesses, and farmers in the three communities have to spend on electricity than they would if the district was the provider.

The SSJID believes LAFCo has gone beyond being overcautious when addressing concerns brought up from PG&E that doesn’t want to lose retail power customers in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.

The SSJID had already done redundant studies to make sure they were on firm footing. Those studies cost in excess of $6 million over the past 10 years. Both came to the same conclusion. The 15 percent reduction in power rates was more than do-able thanks to the Tri-Dam Project power receipts.

The $6 million plus is in addition to the $1.8 million the SSJID has spent on LAFCo related studies since applying for permission to enter the retail power business 51 months ago.

The original consulting study that had been studied by LAFCO lawyers and that PG&E unsuccessfully tried to pick apart for three years was deemed too out of date by LAFCo staff for their governing board to make a decision.

The consultant agreed SSJID has the ability to put more than $12 million a year back into the pockets of residents, farmers, businessmen, and government agencies in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon by purchasing the PG&E retail electrical system that now provides power within the boundaries of the district’s 72,000 acres.