(From Press Release) – The Valley Clean Energy (VCE) Board of Directors — composed of elected officials from Woodland, Davis, and Yolo County — is studying the potential acquisition of PG&E distribution facilities in Yolo County as a way to provide safer, cleaner, more reliable and affordable electricity service to its customers.
PG&E’s recent bankruptcy filing provides an opportunity for a fresh look at how electricity is delivered.
The decision to explore options to provide electric distribution service is not unique to VCE — the city of San Francisco and the South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) in the greater Manteca/Ripon/Escalon area are doing the same.
In June, after 15 years of fighting for local control, the mayors of Manteca, Ripon and Escalon authored a letter asking for support from Gov. Gavin Newsom. The governor’s appointed Energy Strike Force wrote in its April 12, 2019, report, “After years of mismanagement and safety failures, no options can be taken off the table to reform PG&E, including municipalization of all or a portion of PG&E’s operations…”
The PG&E bankruptcy affords an ideal opportunity to determine whether a “public power” electric service approach might provide greater control, benefits and safeguards to California communities.
“Exploring the feasibility of this option is the responsible thing to do for our customers,” said VCE Board Chair Tom Stallard, a member of the Woodland City Council. “And the timing of this opportunity is unique. If we find a practical path forward, transferring PG&E’s poles and lines could mean a safer electricity system and benefits for both customers and the environment — it could bring a real sea change in local power provision.”
While the cost and responsibility of operating and upgrading electrical distribution lines is significant, there are many proven examples showing it is practical for public ownership of power facilities. There are currently 54 public power utilities in California serving almost a third of Californians. VCE will evaluate the benefits and risks of public ownership, as well as possible governance options.
Lucas Frerichs, VCE Board member and Davis City Council member, stated, “Although the structures of various public power utilities may differ, their objectives are always the same: achieving greater control over system safety, investment in equipment upgrades, transparent public governance, and rate stability to benefit all power consumers.”
VCE currently provides more than 90 percent of the electrical generation needs in Woodland, Davis, and unincorporated Yolo County. But customers still must pay PG&E for the distribution of that power to their homes and businesses.
Having full control over both electricity distribution and generation could help achieve VCE’s stated goals of providing cost-competitive clean energy, product choice, increased energy efficiency and price stability.
VCE’s exploratory process will weigh costs and benefits of public power and assess risks that may be associated with ownership of the local distribution system. It is possible to reduce and better control risk by removing the private profit motive and using profits otherwise distributed to PG&E shareholders for reinvestment in the safety of local electric power.
Regular updates on VCE’s feasibility study will be provided at the agency’s board meetings where the board encourages public input. For more information about VCE or the feasibility study, visit www.ValleyCleanEnergy.org.