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City of Davis, Calif., to study forming a public power utility


From the February 10, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published February 10, 2014

By Jeannine Anderson
Editor
The city of Davis, Calif., will take another look at the possibility of unplugging its private power provider, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., and creating a municipal utility. City officials on Jan. 28 authorized spending up to $600,000 for a feasibility study of public power for Davis. 

There was an effort to bring public power to the California city a decade ago. The matter came to a vote in 2006, but the public power plan was defeated after PG&E spent millions of dollars to fight it.

In the 2006 vote, residents of Sacramento rejected a proposal for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to take over electric service to Davis and other parts of Yolo County that are served by PG&E. Voters defeated two of three ballot measures that would have been needed to give SMUD the go-ahead to extend its service territory into the cities of Davis, West Sacramento and Woodland. The three communities are across the river from Sacramento, in Yolo County.

PG&E stood to lose more than 70,000  customers if SMUD had annexed the Yolo County areas. The utility was reported to have spent more than $11 million opposing the plan. 

Elected officials in Davis, West Sacramento and Woodland, and in neighboring unincorporated areas of Yolo County, had asked SMUD to annex them, pointing out that the municipal utility's rates were, on average, nearly 30 percent lower than PG&E's. In 2005, SMUD's board of directors approved the plan to annex the Yolo areas, after a study by the utility estimated that the annexation would bring savings to its existing customers, as well as to residents of the three Yolo communities. 

Supporters of the plan to annex the Yolo areas raised about $1 million to support the measure but PG&E outspent them, 11-1, according to the Sacramento Bee. SMUD, as a public entity, is prohibited from spending money or issuing public statements to influence ballot measures. 

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. ran attack ads, push surveys and sent "an avalanche of mailers" to keep Yolo County in its service territory, the Davis Enterprisenewspaper reported Feb. 2. In Davis, voters had approved the proposed annexation. 

Brandi Ehlers, a spokeswoman for PG&E, said the private utility's electric equipment in Davis is not for sale, the Sacramento Business Journal reported Feb. 3.

Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza told the Enterprise that city leaders are "methodically exploring the issue," but said no decision has been made yet. "If we learn there's not a benefit to the community or much of a benefit to the community, we will change course," he said. 
 

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Jeanne Wickline LaBella
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Jeannine Anderson
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