Another Predicted Cost Increase to PG&E Customers
One of the benefits that most solar companies will introduce to new or potential customers is the idea of “owning your own utility” – meaning, that as time passes and the finance option selected for the initial construction of installing the residential or commercial solar installation, any energy your solar panels produced would be something you owned and didn’t have to compensate anyone for. Outside of the idea of having access to a renewable, unlimited, clean energy source for free, owning your own utility gives a homeowner a bit of power and foresight for unpredictable changes in the utility market that could spike the cost of electricity. And unfortunately, for PG&E dependent consumers, there is another price increase on the horizon.
Fires ravaged Northern California in October of 2017. What became known as the Wine Country Blazes, that included the Redwood fire, Atlas fire, and the Nuns fire, many lives were lost as the nearly 52,000 acres of land burned. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection presented evidence of alleged violations of state law by PG&E in connection with 8 of the 12 fires that its equipment sparked and started the sweeping fires. Thousands of homes, 44 people and at least $12 billion in insurance claims. Under California law, if PG&E can be held liable for the costs if their equipment is found to have caused fire, even if they followed all safety rules. Since the fire broke out, the San Francisco based company, PG&E has lost almost $14 billion in market value and thousands of people are fighting to rebuild their communities.
The implications for the wildfire are expansive and numerous. However, when it comes to electric consumers in Northern California, there are some assertive points to be recognized.
First, PG&E has lost an incredible amount in market value, number nearly equitable to the damage the alleged fires resulted in. Concern for both shareholders of PG&E and consumers is that the pending lawsuits could bankrupt PG&E. A bankruptcy could deeply hurt both tax payers, and further damage the victims of the fire. Experts explain that a PG&E bankruptcy could result in court decisions reclassifying company activities and restricting, meaning fire victim clams could lay in limbo for decades to come.
Second, a bankruptcy could gravely impact local consumers, families and the economy. PG&E has over 20,000 employees. The risk of 20,000 people losing their job is an area for concern. Additionally, for the utility consumer, what would replace what is currently known as PG&E is unknown, meaning an unknown in structure, costs or fees associated with energy use in the future.
Recently, an East Bay legislator proposed a new bill to help cover the losses of the fire. Specifically, the bill would make PG&E customers cover the cost of settling lawsuits from last year’s wildfire. The proposed bill (AB 33) PG&E could ask its regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission to authorize the issuance of “recovery bonds” to be paid off by the company’s customers through fixed monthly charges on their bills. If the commission later determined that PG&E was negligent in the fires, the commission could credit money already spent back to the customers.
The benefit of the legislation proposed is that it would allow the company to avoid bankruptcy and ensure continuity of jobs and utility service.
The Solar Solution
The unknown and unpredictability in the current state of the utility is overwhelming. There is unknown what PG&E will do and there is unknown if there will be increases in costs of utility due to the addition of bonds that PG&E consumers will have to pay off. Predicting, and budgeting, what electricity will cost in the near future for all PG&E consumers is at an all-time low.
One way savvy consumers can start to assert their voice in the utility is to go solar. Solar is more affordable than it ever has been and will allow solar customers to predict their energy costs moving forward. Even more exciting is that Return on Investment for solar customers is generally quite short, allowing homeowners and business owners to own their own energy. The implications of the fire on PG&E consumers become quite minimal when they are dependent on their own solar energy and not on that of the utility.
Take control of your energy consumption, cost and accessibility now by beginning to explore options for a residential or commercial solar installation. We recommend getting quotes from several companies, however, we invite you to set up an appointment with one of our Energy Adviser’s today or stop by our local, downtown Brentwood showroom to learn about solar options for your home or business today.
Matt is energized by the dynamic nature of the solar industry and appreciates the constant need for education and quick action that success in the industry demands. Matt’s interest in the environment spans beyond the realm of green energy and enjoys raft trips in unexplored and hidden corners of rivers throughout the U.S.
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