Less than two months after San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo first announced plans to make PG&E into a customer owned utility in San Jose, it was announced that 114 elected officials in and around San Jose gave support to their effort. The plans also reached the next step by introducing operating principles for the new utility within San Jose.
Santa Clara County supervisors and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf are among the 114 who signed. Other officials from counties that have been negatively affected by PG&E wildfires and power shutdowns have also signed.
San Jose’s long term plan
“With these principles, we’ve presented a framework for a viable customer-owned PG&E that will be transparent, accountable, and equitable,” stated Mayor Liccardo in a press release. “I’m proud to stand with our growing coalition of 114 elected leaders, who together represent more than half of Californians served by PG&E, urging the company’s transformation to put its days of underinvestment, mismanagement, and negligence far behind us.”
Mayor Liccardo also announced seven operating principles: Geographic Inclusion and Equity, Governing Board Responsibilities and Selection Process, Labor and Workforce, Power Supply Procurement, Public Accountability, Rate Impact and Credit Quality, and Safety and Response. Mayor Liccardo stated that these principles were established to preserve existing PG&E labor contracts and skilled workers in event of a takeover.
Mayor Liccardo and the government of San Jose have decided to attempt to create their own utility company within the city to combat mismanagement they see at PG&E, as well as to stop practices such as long-term scheduled power outages. In October alone, San Jose had lost $500,000 in business and revenue taxes due to PG&E caused planned blackouts.
A question of sale
PG&E has said in past months that they are not for sale. But with the ongoing bankruptcy, renewed drives in San Francisco to move away from PG&E, and the state threatening to take PG&E over itself by June have changed the playing field for PG&E.
“Every week something new is popping up,” said Mark Forsyth, a Palo Alto energy sector investor. “Every week brings something damaging to the company. San Jose wants them, but now so does the entire state.”
“This San Jose thing, it would be the crack that breaks them apart if it’s successful. There’s a lot of unhappy cities, and towns, and counties out there. San Francisco wants their own. Towns like Paradise would definitely want anyone else. But look at how Bell broke up in the early 80’s and fragmented into many other companies. This isn’t exactly the same, because that was more of a trust-busting move, but the effects of it would be damn close if it happens.”
Mayor Liccardo has also notified the California Public Utilities Commission about their plan and hopes that it will be a plan for consideration due to PG&E’s bankrupt status. The Mayor and the city of San Jose are currently continuing moving forward with their customer owned utility plan.
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