Support growing in South Bay to make PG&E a customer-owned utility

Bay Area

SAN JOSE (KRON) — Although the rain has pushed the wildfire threat out of the headlines, PG&E is still taking heat over its role in causing some of those fires.

Would pushing the utility aside in favor of a customer-owned utility mean fewer fires and a company more responsive to the people it serves? 

That’s the idea behind a plan gaining steam in the South Bay.  

There is growing support for a plan that would make PG&E a customer-owned co-op that would strive to harden the grid and put an end to what San Jose’s mayor says is the company’s mismanagement and negligence. 

“What we’re finding throughout the state is that there is a very strong desire to see a new model emerge for PG&E,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Liccardo on Thursday announced that a coalition of more than 100 elected leaders from 58 cities and ten counties are supporting his plan for a customer-owned takeover of PG&E.

“What we need to do is to fully align everyone’s financial interests so that every dollar coming from ratepayers is invested in improving the reliability and safety of the grid,” Liccardo said.

Representing some 8 million people served by PG&E, the coalition unveiled a list of operating principles in creating a non-profit cooperative.  

They include: geographic inclusion and equity, a governing board, labor and workforce, power supply procurement, public accountability, rate impact and credit quality and safety and response.

“The power safety shut offs are not going to stop until this company has hardened the grid and can be operated reliably and safely without causing fires,” Liccardo said.

The proposed guidelines would preserve PG&E’s service area and maintain current labor contracts and independent power producers.  

The coalition hopes to ask the same federal judge handling the utility’s bankruptcy to consider rate payers as a viable alternative to another private owner.  

Either way, billions will be needed to pay creditors and wildfire victims. 

“We are going to be paying more.  The question is how much more and who will benefit.  Is it going to be out of state hedge funds or is it going to be customers and ratepayers in the State of California,” Liccardo said. 

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