By Hudson Sangree
FERC denied a complaint Thursday by the city of Oakland against Pacific Gas and Electric for charging retail instead of wholesale power and transmission rates at the Port of Oakland, which maintains an extensive distribution network. The city claimed PG&E violated the Federal Power Act by charging the higher rates and failing to file a wholesale service agreement with FERC (EL18-197).
The city, acting through the port, asked for a refund of the difference between the retail rates PG&E charged and the wholesale rates the city argued it should have paid for electricity it had received through its Cuthbertson substation between 1997 and 2017, when it signed a wholesale agreement with the utility. The city said that since 1997, it had resold virtually all the electricity it received from PG&E to metered electricity end-use customers, and that PG&E should have been aware of the situation and charged wholesale rates.
FERC rejected the city’s argument and request for relief, saying it hadn’t provided evidence, such as invoices, of its resale of electricity to end users. Moreover, the city never specifically asked PG&E to change its rates from retail to wholesale at the substation, and the utility did not have an obligation to do so on its own, the commission said.
“We do not believe that Port has substantiated its general claim that PG&E violated Section 205c of the FPA by failing to file a wholesale transmission and power sale agreement for the Cuthbertson substation,” the commission said. “Port’s statements to the contrary are speculative, not supported by the record evidence, and insufficient to meet its FPA Sections 206 and 306 burdens.”
The commission added that “even if we were to find that PG&E violated FPA Section 205c as alleged by Port, we would not direct refunds here. As noted above, Port had ample opportunity over roughly two decades to clarify the nature of the service it took from PG&E and failed to do so. We therefore do not think requiring refunds from PG&E would be appropriate.”