Thursday, February 21, 2019

PG&E Vows Fight over Wildfire Cost Recovery

By Jason Fordney

Pacific Gas and Electric CEO Geisha Williams said Friday that the utility will fight for the right to recover costs stemming from California wildfires “in the legal, regulatory and legislative arenas.”

San Francisco-based PG&E and other investor-owned utilities are being investigated for causing the devastating fires that wracked the state last year. Investigators for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have not yet found evidence indicating the fires were caused by IOU infrastructure.

Williams said PG&E will seek a rehearing of the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision to deny San Diego Gas & Electric’s request to recover from ratepayers $379 million in costs related to the 2007 Southern California wildfires. (See Besieged CPUC Denies SDG&E Wildfire Recovery.) Heavy winds exacerbated the effects of the deadly infernos that swept across the region.

“It’s bigger than just PG&E and the other California IOUs, and much bigger than just this past year’s fires,” Williams said of the wildfires, drawing a link between them and climate change. “This is a collective societal challenge.”

PG&E reported $13 billion in electric operating revenues in 2017 and associated operating expenses of $4.3 billion. Net income was $1.6 billion after taxes, compared with $1.4 billion in 2016 and $861 million in 2015.

california wildfires pg&e cost recovery

The 2017 Tubbs and Pocket Fires in Northern California

The company had earlier announced a suspension of dividends amid uncertainty over its liability associated with last year’s Northern California fires. For the fourth quarter of 2017, GAAP results were $114 million ($0.02/share) compared with $692 million ($1.36/share) for the same quarter in 2016.

No Challenge to Diablo Canyon Decision

PG&E also said it will not contest a CPUC ruling that granted the utility just a fraction of the cost recovery it had requested for retiring the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the last remaining nuke in a state where more than 60 such plants were proposed in the 1970s.

pg&e cost recovery california wildfires

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant | PG&E

PG&E said “today’s announcement comes after all the parties had the opportunity to confer” following the CPUC’s Jan. 11 decision on the joint proposal agreement. (See PG&E Disputes ALJ’s Diablo Canyon Recommendation.)