PG&E Bankruptcy May Not Affect Community Choice Power

East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) doubts there would be any negative impact on its power delivery program, if PG&E files bankruptcy, according to EBCE CEO Nick Chaset.

Chaset said that EBCE is working on an official statement about the topic, but he told a reporter that the potential bankruptcy “would have no meaningful impact on our program.”

“We go out and buy energy, and serve our customers with energy sources,” said Chaset. EBCE does not necessarily have to buy power generated by PG&E. In fact, one motivation for Alameda County supervisors’ creation of EBCE was to encourage formation of more clean power generating firms, to help meet long-term state green power goals.

News reports indicate PG&E has such tremendous potential legal liability from wildfires that allegedly may have been caused by its power lines that the firm might not be able to survive financially, unless it applies for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. PG&E stock value has been dropping, because of the news.

The California Community Choice Association (CalCCA), a group that represents EBCE and other Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) entities throughout the state, issued a statement on Jan. 14 about PG&E.

“CCAs are committed to providing reliable service, clean energy at competitive rates, and innovative programs that benefit people, the environment and the economy in communities across California. They are closely monitoring any developments related to PG&E’s financial situation and are in the process of evaluating potential impacts on CCA customers and operations,” said the statement.

The PG&E bankruptcy topic arose at the EBCE board of directors meeting Jan.16 in Hayward. A staff member told the board that as part of a presentation on EBCE’s marketing campaign, workers at its call center have been given talking points about how to respond to questions about the possible bankruptcy filings.

The idea is to give clear guidance about the bankruptcy, because it is a legal issue, and call center staff should not be giving their own opinions about it, said the staff member. She did not say what is in the talking points given to the call center workers.

In another report, the board learned that signups for EBCE have continued at a 98% acceptance rate in the total number of member cities and the unincorporated area. That means a total of 2% opted to be transferred back to PG&E.

PG&E customers are automatically transferred to EBCE, but they can call or go on line and have themselves opted out of the changeover. By doing so, they keep PG&E as their power source buyer.

As people become new EBCE customers, the power continues to be delivered at the meter by PG&E. No wiring or hook-up changes are needed for joining EBCE.

When EBCE started last year and projected its budget, the expected opt-out rate was 10%. In the Valley, residents of Livermore, Dublin and Sunol can switch to EBCE. Pleasanton has not joined EBCE, so its residents are not offered the choice. The Pleasanton City Council said it will see how EBCE works out, and may make a decision about it later this year.

The board also heard a report from a partner from the firm that audited the EBCE books. He gave an “unqualified opinion,” an auditing term that means the financial books are materially accurate. The material accuracy shows that it faithfully represents the information that it purports to present.

 

PG&E Bankruptcy May Not Affect Community Choice Power, by Ron McNicoll, The Independent, January 24, 2019.

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