Nov 6, 2019 - Energy & Environment

California's growing local push to overhaul PG&E

A worker getting into his PG&E truck

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Nearly two dozen California mayors and county leaders — including San Jose and Sacramento — are pressing state regulators to help them transform the embattled, bankrupt power giant PG&E into a customer-owned cooperative.

Why it matters: Their new letter to the California Public Utilities Commission shows how PG&E's power shutdowns amid wildfire risk and overall performance are prompting calls for a seismic re-think of its structure.

  • The CPUC has a key oversight role in the company's bankruptcy reorganization and recently launched a probe of power shut-offs that have affected millions.

What they're saying: The local officials argue that a cooperative structure would help provide tens of billions of dollars needed for "system hardening, wildfire protection and cyber-security."

  • "A mutualized PG&E can raise capital from a broad pool of debt financing in amounts substantially greater than can an investor-owned PG&E, and at much lower cost," it states.
  • PG&E opposes the plan, per the Wall Street Journal, which reported yesterday on the city and county proposal.

Where it stands: California Gov. Gavin Newsom met yesterday with PG&E's CEO Bill Johnson and "reiterated the state’s frustration with PG&E and strongly urged the parties get to a resolution that ensures what we saw over the last month never happens again and results in a transformed utility," his office said.In recent days Newsom has threatened a state takeover of the company.

The big picture: "Some of Wall Street's biggest names are jostling for control of the utility, including a group of bondholders led by billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp.," Bloomberg reports.

Go deeper ... California wildfires: What you need to know

Go deeper