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Year for cheaper Ripon power?
52 months later, 2014 may be the decision year for SSJID
SUBSTATION2 12-28-13
SSJID is working toward obtaining the PG&E system in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon to lower retail rates 15 percent across the board. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

A big jolt is coming in 2014.

That’s because South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Jeff Shields is convinced that the San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission will finally rule on the 104-year-old public agency’s quest to lower retail electrical rates in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon by at least 15 percent.

If LAFCo rules in favor of SSJID’s application civic leaders such as Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford believe it will give the three cities an advantage in attracting jobs which in turn will benefit Stockton and other nearby communities struggling with double-digit unemployment.

If LAFCo rules against the application despite a second independent report expected to lay out a case that SSJID can deliver on its promise they will have to explain why the agency had no problem 14 years earlier granting Lathrop Irrigation District to do the same thing. In both instances it involved a public agency taking over PG&E territory.

LID had no history in the power business period — retail or wholesale — and no time under their belt as a water provider. SSJID has been delivering water for 104 years and wholesale power for 58 years.  And it took LID’s application less than four months to breeze through the LAFCo process. the current SSJID application is now in its 52nd month.

“A decision will be made.” Shields said emphatically.

Weatherford believes that if SSJID goes into the retail power business it will be good news for the unemployed in Manteca, Ripon, Escalon, Stockton, Lathrop, and other communities.

Weatherford noted that when he served as city manager in Galt, that Sacramento County city beat out over jurisdictions for a Midwest manufacturer that wanted to locate a new plant. The big reason was the significantly lower power rates Galt had as being part of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

And it wasn’t just the fact SMUD was a public agency and didn’t have to generate a profit. It is because they had an established, reliable source of cheap power. SSJID is in a similar position.

SMUD is credited with allowing Folsom to beat out a dozen other cities to land an Intel chip making plant. In Roseville, that city’s municipal owned electrical service that also supplies reliable and lower cost power than PG&E was able to snag numerous major employers and retailers including Hewlett-Packard, Shugart, and  NEC Electronics.

The large employers snagged by Folsom and Roseville employed workers from throughout the Sacramento region. The same is expected of large employers that would locate within SSJID territory.

Shields noted electricity service is a major factor for many major employers in deciding where to locate. He noted they are interested in reliability, the ability to hand le future growth, and price.

“It is a big deal,” Shields noted of electricity’s impact on expansion decisions.