Nov 6, 2019

California's growing local push to overhaul PG&E

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

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PG&E bankruptcy judge sides with fire victims in liability challenge

Streaks of lights from vehicles drive along highway 24 during an Oct. 10 PG&E power shutoff in Oakland, Calif. Photo: Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

PG&E lost a challenge Wednesday to a California law holding it liable for billions of dollars in wildfire damage connected to its equipment, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: The ruling in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco by Judge Dennis Montali is a victory for victims of the state's 2017 and 2018 wildfires, who are hoping to be awarded damages for their affected properties in the utility’s bankruptcy.

Go deeperArrowNov 28, 2019

PG&E and the rise of "resilience culture"

A PG&E contractor works on utility poles. Photo: Philip Pacheco/AFP via Getty Images

PG&E will start cutting power Wednesday to about 150,000 customers in 18 California counties in the latest wave of preemptive blackouts to curb wildfire risks.

Why you'll hear about this again: The embattled utility will probably need to keep doing this for a long time. But the blackouts are just one force speeding the rise of what Shayle Kann of the VC firm Energy Impact Partners calls "resilience culture."

Go deeperArrowNov 20, 2019

California wildfires: What you need to know

A firefighter controls a hotspot of the Maria Fire in Ventura County, Calif., on Saturday. Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

California firefighters are winning the fight against a series of wildfires in the state, with official figures showing most blazes at least 75% contained and several others fully contained or extinguished by Tuesday night. But authorities warn the fire danger isn't over yet.

What's new: A new report warns the fire season could continue through December. Firefighters were dealing with a new fire in a remote area of Lake County, near Clearlake. CalFire said the blaze, named the Eagle Fire, had burned 75 acres and was 56% contained by Tuesday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 6, 2019