A month into the latest state legislative session, some California Democrats have put a target on Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) and investor-owned utilities’ roles in reducing the risk of wildfires.
State Sen. Scott Wiener earlier this month submitted Senate Bill (SB) 917, which would transform PG&E into a publicly operated utility, and SB 378, which would hold PG&E and other utilities accountable for damages caused by public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) used to lower wildfire risks. Assemblymember Marc Levine also has introduced a trio of bills to control utilities’ operations of the preventive power blackouts.
Wiener said PG&E’s track record “has shown its basic business model is no longer viable.” He claimed the utility has focused on profits to the “deprioritization” of safety investments, leaving infrastructure “deteriorated and unsafe.”
“Converting PG&E into a publicly owned utility will focus the company away from profits and Wall Street and toward public safety, reliability and affordability of rates,” said Wiener.
Analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC predicted the legislature would not act on SB 917 until after June 30, the deadline for PG&E’s exit from Chapter 11, but passage of the PSPS bills may come sooner.
While elected officials may find political advantages in continuing to “punish” PG&E through the takeover proposals, “such an approach may not necessarily lessen the risk of wildfires related to electrical systems,” the analysts said.