Bay Area mayors calling on PG&E to become customer-owned utility

Bay Area

SAN JOSE (KRON) — What if PG&E were owned by the customers who pay the bills?  

Several mayors from the Bay Area and beyond have signed a letter calling on the California Public Utilities Commission and the governor to give the idea serious consideration before approving any bankruptcy reorganization plan for PG&E.

“We’re not looking to balkanize or break up the company, we’re looking to transform the company, we’re looking to transform the company,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Liccardo says the best way for PG&E to emerge from bankruptcy is to become a customer-owned utility.

“By creating a customer-owned utility we’ll be able to align the financial interests of the taxpayers with the public interest and secondly, we’ll be able to create a company that has access to capital markets that will be critically needed for this utility to get back on its feet,” Liccardo said. 

The mayor’s office says a letter calling for a customer-owned cooperative was delivered to the public utility commission today.  

Signed by the mayors of Oakland, Sacramento and at least a dozen other cities, the letter sites recent wildfires and raises the alarm about how PG&E might emerge from bankruptcy.

It calls on the CPUC to consider the customer-owned idea that could avoid shareholder dividends and save rate-payers billions of dollars in financing, system-upgrades and other costs. 

“Projections from the people we’re working with which consist of former PG&E executives and other experts believe that we can save as much as $14 billion with this approach recognizing the amount of capital the company is going to need access to,” San Jose’s mayor said.

The coalition’s plan calls for selling $50 billion in bonds to finance a buyout.

The customer-owned utility would set its own rates and those same customers would pay back the debt through their monthly energy bills.  

Those bills would likely go up but the alternative will almost certainly be worse says Mayor Liccardo.

“There is no question that whatever form the company comes out of bankruptcy, rate payers will pay more, we know that because we see the size of the debt and the liabilities,” Liccardo said. “The question is are they going to be paying more for the same broken investor-owned utility owned by an out of state hedge fund seeking to maximize profits and leave the carcass for taxpayers and ratepayers to pick up.”

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