What PG&E Won’t Tell You

In a conference call a while back, PG&E CEO Peter Darbee accidentally let slip the truth about his “taxpayer’s right to vote” act. Hardy-har.  Basically, this initiative isn’t intended to really give anybody the vote, instead, it is intended to stop counties from even trying this sort of thing. Keep in mind, these words are direct from the mouth of Darbee:

And the idea was to diminish, you know, rather than year after year different communities coming in as this or that and putting this up for vote and us having to spend millions and millions of shareholder dollars to defend it repeatedly, we thought that this was a way that we could sort of diminish that level unless there was a very strong, you know, mandate from voters that this was what they wanted to do. (John Geesman)

Here’s the thing, very rarely do you get 2/3 of people to agree on anything. So PG&E is banking on counties never even bringing this stuff up for a vote, in all intents and purposes, killing community choice aggregation (CCA) in California forever.

So, PG&E, why don’t we just call this what it is: Kill CCA Forever Act. That’s what you want, isn’t it? That’s why you’ve been hounding Marin and San Francisco counties as they have been preparing to enter a CCA program?

Look, the amount of money required to set up a CCA is a relatively small amount of money compared with other expenditures at the county level. I don’t have exact figures, because there hasn’t been a good case study for CCA. PG&E tries to kill them before they get out of the planning stages.  Why require a vote on this one small issue when elected leaders can spend far more on other, costlier programs?

The answer is clear, PG&E doesn’t like it because it messes with their bottom line.  Despite the fact that they claimed that they would play nice with CCAs when they screwed up the power during the brownouts, they’ve continued to act in bad faith. (As an aside, the public power operators fared far better in terms of brownouts than PG&E and other private power companies)

This has nothing to do with anybody’s right to vote. If we wanted to vote on everything we could move to Athens, circa 2500 years ago. But, California is too big for votes on every issue, and PG&E with its big corporate accounts overflowing with ratepayer money uses every last penny hiring fancy consultants to go around spreading lies about “how this is just about letting people vote.” They know it is a bunch of bullshit, and Darbee acknowledges that much.

You think the PG&E spokespeople will be quoting Darbee about how he intends there to be less voting? Yeah, I’m not holding my breath.

7 thoughts on “What PG&E Won’t Tell You”

  1. Can someone explain how having a CCA actually hurts PG&E’s bottom line?  PG&E has to buy power from outside vendors, and then they pass that cost along to customers in rates.  My impression is that they do not get any rate of return on that purchase; it is a pass-through that shows up directly in customer rates.

    This is different from full municipalization.  When PG&E builds infrastructure, they get a regulated rate of return on their investment.  When a municipal utility takes over, customers shift from paying PG&E’s return to the debt service on government bonds.  But with a CCA, the community does the power purchasing, but PG&E retains the infrastructure (and therefore the rate of return on their capital investments).

    So why doesn’t PG&E just throw up their hands and say “go ahead and do your CCA” ???  Do I misunderstand their rate structure?  I understand why PG&E would not want to fight initiative battles all over the map, but why even fight in the first place?

  2. Glad to hear someone’s looking into it.  The first time I heard the Prop 16 ad, the first thing I thought was, “something’s wrong.”  

    Why do citizens need to vote on public utilities?  What’s the point in giving them the public/private option, in creating more red tape and spending all this money on advertisement?

    Who provides your electricity isn’t a controversial issue.  Everyone wants the same two things – lower rates and greater reliability.  This isn’t something people debate.  

    And contrary to popular believe, rates and reliability can go hand-in-hand – the less reliable a system, the higher rates will go so that the utility can reduce consumption and also fund building a new one.  This is a crisis both private and public industries face, and it would be extremely difficult for the average citizen to make an educated choice on the process.  (Even those within the industry would have difficulty deciding.)  

    So in the end, (like usual) the best advertising (and waste of rate payer’s money) will win.

    The more the commercials played (and it feels like the play every break), the more I began to wonder who on earth was providing the funding – and figured it must have been some company with something to gain.

    Seems I was right.

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