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Valley Clean Energy exploring taking over PG&E distribution assets

The board of directors of Valley Clean Energy in Davis, California is studying the possibility of acquiring Pacific Gas and Electric distribution facilities in Yolo County as a way to provide safer, cleaner, and more reliable and affordable electric service to its customers.

Valley Clean Energy is a not-for-profit public agency formed to provide electrical generation service to customers in Woodland, Davis, and the unincorporated areas of Yolo County. When VCE was launched in June 2018, it became one of 19 operational community choice energy programs in the state.

Valley Clean Energy provides more than 90% of the electrical generation needs in Woodland, Davis, and unincorporated Yolo County, but customers still pay PG&E for the distribution of power.

Having full control over both electricity distribution and generation could help achieve VCE’s stated goals of providing cost-competitive clean energy, product choice, increased energy efficiency, and price stability, the board said in an Aug 9 release.

“Exploring the feasibility of this option is the responsible thing to do for our customers,” Tom Stallard, VCE board chair and a member of the Woodland City Council, said in a statement.

The board said Valley Clean Energy will weigh costs and benefits of public power and assess risks that may be associated with ownership of the local distribution system as it goes through its exploratory process.

“If we find a practical path forward, transferring PG&E’s poles and lines could mean a safer electricity system and benefits for both customers and the environment — it could bring a real sea change in local power provision,” Stallard said.

Stallard also said PG&E’s recent bankruptcy provides a “unique opportunity” for a fresh look at how electricity is delivered. It is possible to reduce and better control risk by removing the private profit motive and using profits otherwise distributed to PG&E shareholders for reinvestment in the safety of local electric power, the board said.

San Francisco is also exploring taking over the ownership of the city’s electric grid from PG&E. In May, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission found that public ownership of the city’s electric grid has “the potential for significant longterm benefits relative to investment costs and risks.”

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District is also exploring municipalization. In June, the irrigation district forwarded to California Gov. Gavin Newsom a letter signed by the mayors of the cities of Escalon, Manteca, and Ripon renewing the cities’ endorsement of South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s bid to take over PG&E electric service.

“These three communities are serious about taking control of their energy future,” said Barry Moline, executive director of the California Municipal Utilities Association. “They each recognize the high value that the public power model offers their community. Their citizens are tired of poor service and now want local power, and I fully expect them to succeed.”

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