Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is being held responsible for the California wildfires of 2017 and 2018, which has led to the utility giant to declare bankruptcy. In light of this development, San Francisco city officials are the option of taking over PG&E or parts of it. The city believes this would reduce the cost of power delivery, improve reliability and continue the sustainability goals it has set for itself. It would also avoid reliance upon the embattled utility whose future is far from certain.
Three options for moving forward
The city is weighing three approaches, which the utility says it is open to:
- Full independence by buying PE&G’s assets
- Partial independence to allow the utility some autonomy
- Limited independence
The city already is moving swiftly towards power independence for years, notably starting with the Public Utilities Commission taking over electrical service for Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island in 1997. The city also provides a 100% clean energy option with community aggregator CleanPowerSF, which was launched in 2016, as well as Hetch Hetchy Power, which the municipal services use. The idea is to not wait for the state’s 100% clean energy goal by 2045.
Complex deal likely
Business deals are complex whenever they involve municipalities or government. Attorneys that understand the rules involved can help the municipal authorities protect the public entity’s interests, which helps ensure that good intentions like buying PE&G do not lead to a bad deal that puts the municipality or its employees in trouble.