Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
PG&E is undertaking a campaign to repaint about 6,000 electric transmission towers coated with lead-based paint, including 65 of the tall structures in Sonoma County.
Letters will be sent this week to owners of the 32 properties where the towers are located months ahead of the work that’s expected to begin in the fall, said Nicole Liebelt, a PG&E spokeswoman.
The letters will be followed by phone calls and personal contact by PG&E representatives.
While use of lead paint is still allowed on commercial structures, Liebelt said PG&E is voluntarily undertaking the repainting program — expected to cost $300 million to $400 million — out of concern for pubic health. PG&E no longer uses lead paint on its towers, Liebelt said.
Read more at: PG&E plans to repaint transmission towers coated with lead paint | The Press Democrat
Arthur Dawson, Towns Section, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Hole in the Head is a 70-foot deep pit dug at Bodega Head in the early 1960s. It is a sort of anti-monument, a place to remember something that didn’t happen. In the late 1950s, PG&E drew up plans for power plants up and down the California coast. Though the Bodega Head plant was initially cast as a “steam-electric generating facility,” the company eventually admitted it would be a nuclear plant — one of the largest in the world at the time.
In those days there was no public input on major projects. As ground was broken and a pit excavated in the first stage of construction, public reaction to the reactor was approaching critical mass.
The Association to Preserve Bodega Head and Harbor was formed by an eclectic group of local ranchers, jazz musicians, students, Sierra Club Director David Brower, homemakers and other concerned citizens.
At a meeting in Santa Rosa, a coordinator for the state’s Atomic Energy Development Agency, frustrated by all the public comments, told the group that they should leave the project “to the experts.” This did not sit well with people who felt they needed a nuclear plant like, well, “a hole in the head.”
They began writing letters to officials and organizing creative protest rallies. Gathering at Bodega Head on Memorial Day, 1963, they released 1,500 yellow balloons into the air. Each one carried a note: “This balloon could represent a radioactive molecule of strontium-90 or iodine-131.” The balloons showed up many miles downwind, landing as far away as the East Bay and the Central Valley.
PG&E insisted it would engineer the plant to safely survive a major earthquake. The activists responded by hiring a geologist to assess the site.
Read more at: Bodega Bay’s Hole in the Head has a rich history | The Press Democrat
Paul Payne, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
PG&E has been ordered to pay $120,000 to settle claims that it allowed oil from an underground transformer to contaminate a Santa Rosa creek, prosecutors said Thursday.
A complaint filed in Sonoma County Superior Court alleges the spill into Paulin Creek happened during intense storms in February 2015.Crews were repairing a failed transformer at Sleepy Hollow Drive when oil leaked into a storm drain and flowed into the creek, prosecutors alleged.
PG&E failed to “immediately notify proper authorities of the discharge,” according to a statement from District Attorney Jill Ravitch.
Under the terms of the settlement approved by Judge Allan Hardcastle, PG&E will pay $80,000 in civil penalties and $40,000 in investigative and enforcement costs.
Source: PG&E to pay $120,000 for Santa Rosa creek spill | The Press Democrat
Steve Lopez, LOS ANGELES TIMES
All week long, the ultimate destination was the Sonoma County coast.That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy knocking around Tolowa Dunes, the Smith River and the Lost Coast last week.
Even though I’m a native Californian, I’d done very little exploring up there where the misty shore is rocky, elk run wild and giant redwoods creep down to the sea.
But I was eager to get to the place where the state’s coastal preservation movement took root four decades ago in a David-and-Goliath battle, and I knew I’d be meeting some of the visionaries to whom all Californians owe a debt of gratitude. Their story and the lessons learned are more important than ever, given project proposals big and small that could forever alter the California coast.
I knew I’d be meeting some of the visionaries to whom all Californians owe a debt of gratitude.Let me set the scene first.In the early 1960s, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. planned and began building a power plant at Bodega Head, one of the most jaw-dropping stretches of coast on the planet.
Meanwhile, developers were mapping plans for a monster residential project just north of Jenner at Sea Ranch, where sheep grazed between coastal bluffs and stunning pebble beaches.Those projects had the support of local officials, who saw new streams of revenue.
But a small group of residents saw something else: the destruction of paradise.
They believed there would be irreparable harm to fisheries and the magnificent coastal habitat. In their minds, there’d be another crime, as well: the privatization of a public treasure.
The late Bill Kortum, a veterinarian from Petaluma, refused to let it happen.
When I got to Bodega Bay, I met with Kortum’s wife, Lucy, and his son, Sam, along with others who had lobbied, biked, hiked, knocked on doors and circulated petitions all those years ago to save the coast.
Read more at: Why California’s northern coast doesn’t look like Atlantic City – LA Times
Erica Etelson, CALIFORNIA CURRENT
Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission kicked off what is expected to be a long and arduous process of reforming the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment. The PCIA is an ongoing fee that California investor-owned utilities impose on departing ratepayers. That is, those of us who switch to a Community Choice energy program or procure electricity from a Direct Access retailer must pony up money every month to compensate the private utilities for losses associated with stranded contracts they’ve entered (or claim to have entered) on our behalf.
Much to the surprise of community choice customers, the PCIA seems to have achieved immortality. Whereas the operating assumption was that this charge, approved last December, would ramp down and eventually disappear as stranded contracts expire, the opposite has occurred. Pacific Gas & Electric now projects that it will levy this charge on Marin Clean Energy customers until 2043.
The California Alliance for Community Energy is calling for the sun setting of the PCIA within three years of the launch of a community choice program and for the immediate cessation of the PCIA for low-income CARE customers. In our view, no amount of technocratic tinkering under the auspices of an agency as partial to the monopoly utilities as the CPUC will render the PCIA tolerable to community choice programs and their customers.
PG&E will collect an estimated $119 million in PCIA charges from community choice and direct access customers this year, nearly twice as much as last year thanks to the CPUC’s rubber-stamping of PG&E’s calculus. For community choice customers, this amounts to a line item on their monthly bill ranging from $1.00 to $29.00. To stay competitive with the incumbent monopoly utility, community choice agencies must offset their electricity rates by roughly the amount of the PCIA.
This means that community choice programs are losing millions a year in revenue that could otherwise be used for demand reduction and the development of renewable electricity projects.
Read more at: GUEST JUICE: Kryptonite Needed for Community Choice Super Fee | CA Current
Lizzie Johnson, SFGATE
PG&E and other big utilities also proposed cutting the amount of compensation that solar homeowners receive for excess electricity that they export to the grid.
The California Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to allow a nearly 100 percent price increase on exit fees for customers leaving Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for green energy programs like CleanPowerSF and Marin Clean Energy, which will make those and similar programs more expensive.
Many of the programs — where local governments buy green electricity for their residents, while private utilities own and operate the electrical grid — will be undermined financially by the uptick in the charge, called the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, their officials say.
“We are not surprised that the increase was approved,” said Marin Clean Energy spokeswoman Alexandra McCroskey. “We are disappointed. Our primary frustrations come from the fact that we are becoming almost liable for the market fluctuations for both ourselves and PG&E. If PG&E isn’t planning appropriately for people leaving for community choice aggregation programs, the PCIA will continue to increase. It’s poor planning.”
Read more at: Customers of clean energy programs hit with fee increase – SFGate
Woody Hastings, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Nearly 90 percent of Sonoma County Pacific Gas & Electric customers are also Sonoma Clean Power customers who may soon be hit with an electric bill increase through no fault of Sonoma Clean Power. Whether this happens depends on a decision to be made today by the California Public Utilities Commission.
The commission will decide whether PG&E and other utilities can increase a previously small charge on customers’ bills. PG&E is requesting the increase as compensation for losses the company claims to have incurred because Sonoma Clean Power customers no longer pay PG&E for power the company says it purchased on their behalf. To be clear, monthly electricity bills wouldn’t increase because Sonoma Clean Power is raising its rates, but because PG&E would be significantly increasing what is known as the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment.
Sonoma Clean Power has enjoyed a spectacularly successful launch and first full year of service. Rates are currently 6 to 9 percent below PG&E rates, including the current Power Charge Indifference Adjustment fee. Sonoma Clean Power customers’ dollars pay for 36 percent renewable energy in the basic power mix, which is about 48 percent lower in greenhouse gas emissions than PG&E’s mix. When Sonoma Clean Power considered rate changes earlier this year, it chose to keep them unchanged from the previous year, in contrast to PG&E’s 30-plus year trend of increasing rates an average of 4 percent per year.
PG&E’s proposed radical increase in the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment fee is among many attempts it has made over the past decade to crush community choice. Its attempts include aggressive anti-community choice marketing, several failed proposed laws in the state Legislature and a failed ballot initiative in 2010 on which PG&E spent $50 million of shareholder money.
The intent behind the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment is to ensure that PG&E customers do not experience any increase in their rates due to the fact that some customers have departed as new community choice customers, making the PG&E customers “indifferent” to the fact that a new community choice program has launched. The premise is that PG&E has made long-term power purchases on behalf of the community choice customers who are no longer full customers of PG&E. However, the way the fee is calculated and what purchases are counted are cloaked in mystery.
The timing of this “adjustment” to the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment coincides with the anticipated launch of San Francisco’s Community Choice program in early 2016. Many other communities in PG&E’s service territory are also on track to establish community choice programs imminently. With a dramatically increased Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, community choice programs lose their competitive edge, and the many communities currently considering Community Choice may abandon it instead.
PG&E cannot raise the fee without the state Public Utility Commission’s approval. You can reach the CPUC at email@example.com.
Woody Hastings is the renewable energy implementation Manager at the Center for Climate Protection, which is based in Santa Rosa.
Source: PG&E’s plan to raise an obscure fee on | The Press Democrat
Mark Leno & Francesca Vietor, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
No one disputes that an exit fee paid to utilities, if appropriately administered, can be a fair way to equitably reimburse existing electric customers when others leave for cleaner energy from programs such as Marin Clean Energy, Sonoma Clean Power, or forthcoming programs such as CleanPowerSF or Peninsula Clean Energy.
What is at issue is why the California Public Utilities Commission is not asking questions expected of an oversight body or engaging in a transparent public process in this important decision. We request that the state commission reject the PG&E proposal to double the exit fee when it votes on Thursday until the commissioners can audit PG&E’s proposed rate increase and revisit the fairness of the calculation of the fee, known as the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment.
Until that audit and public discourse has taken place, we propose that the commission temporarily cap any such increases requested by the utility. The commission should then convene a series of public workshops and attempt to create a fair and balanced process that provides equity for customers who choose to remain with PG&E and for those who choose a cleaner future through community choice aggregation programs.
If PG&E’s proposed increase to $13 from $6.70 a month is approved, it would stifle efforts of California cities to receive cleaner electricity and disproportionately charge higher fees to the poorest households. California cities and counties, energy advocates and environmental organizations are demanding that the commission enforce its own rate-making rules by taking the time to properly audit and discuss PG&E’s rate proposal.
Read more at: PG&E’s huge profit from exit fee signals need for reform
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
As Petaluma veterinarian Matthew Carter’s electricity bills reflect, caring for animals in a comfortable clinic setting is not cheap.
Carter, who co-owns Central Animal Hospital on D Street with his wife, is having solar panels installed on the roof of the business this week. He hopes to slash the clinic’s energy bills, which average about $800 a month, by about 80 percent.
And, economics aside, solar power, Carter said, “is good for the environment.”
Legions of Californians have turned to solar energy for similar reasons. But under proposals by the state’s three utility giants, rooftop solar power may become less of a good deal. The companies, including PG&E, are seeking to lower compensation rates to solar customers who supply excess power to the grid, and to also implement new “demand charges” for those customers.
The changes would cut the amount solar customers save on utility bills by an average of about $20 per month.
PG&E, which has connected more rooftop solar than any utility in America, argues the changes are needed to create a more equitable and sustainable framework for maintaining the electricity grid.
“We need to make sure the grid is robust and that it can accommodate that two-way power flow,” said Steve Malnight, PG&E’s senior vice president of regulatory affairs.
Solar companies, however, say the utilities are really seeking to dim interest in the fast-growing source of power for homes and businesses. Sonoma County alone has seen an 808 percent increase in the number of PG&E customers hooking up to solar in the past decade — and there are no signs of the trend abating.
Read more at: Proposal from PG&E, other utilities, seeks cut in | The Press Democrat
Julia Pyper, GREENTECH MEDIA
February 10, 2015. Pacific Gas & Electric filed a proposal yesterday for $654 million in ratepayer dollars to build 25,000 electric vehicle charging stations across its service area in northern and central California.If approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, the program will be the largest deployment of electric vehicle EV chargers in the country. California, the leading market for plug-in cars in the United States, currently has about 6,000 public charging stations.
Consumer advocates, however, including the Utility Reform Network TURN, are concerned that the program puts an unfair cost burden on ratepayers for infrastructure that only a small percentage of customers will use. A typical residential customer would pay an additional 70 cents per month to cover the costs of the program from 2018 to 2022.
“We are very skeptical about the value of investing so much ratepayer money and betting it all on electric vehicles,” Mark Toney, executive director of TURN, told the San Jose Mercury News.
PG&E estimates it will incur $551 million in capital costs and $103 million in operating expenses over the course of the five-year program. Pending approval, installation would begin in 2017.
Read more via PG&E Seeks $654 Million to Build 25,000 EV Charging Stations : Greentech Media.