Up in Flames- Who Pays for PG&E’s Rise from the Ashes?

California’s largest energy provider has come under fire over the fires that devastated the state this year. A barrage of news outlets on the local and national level have placed an alarming amount of blame on PG&E. The purpose of this memo is not to point the finger. The fact remains that someone must now lift a finger- To clean, repair, restore, rehab, renovate, etc., a charred landscape, miles of scorched property, and a shattered public trust. Would you ride the BART if it kept coming off the tracks? This heavy lifting is going to be expensive. Thus the old question: “Who’s paying for all this?”

Out of the Fires & into the Frying Pan

Who do you think? Nearly half of California is ‘served’ by PG&E. So several billion dollars spread over 16 million customers in the form of subtle rate hikes shouldn’t be too alarming to anyone… It’s the old froggie fable: Turn the heat up gradually, and he (or in this case, we) will happily boil. It’s worked before. It always works. It’s working right now.

This is not speculation. In 2010, a natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California, left eight dead and dozens injured. PG&E wasn’t just blamed. They were charged with felonies. Property losses, litigation, and court ordered ‘We’re really, really sorry’ advertisements in the SF Chronicle were estimated at north of $1.5 billion. How has the utility giant recouped those expenses not mapped into their fiscal budget for the last decade? From you. And you. And you. Times 16 million customers. The good news is, and you’ll be relieved to know: PG&E’s profits are up. Because your electricity rates are up. To the point of scalding. Solar is a safe, affordable alternative to relying on an increasingly unreliable energy provider. Maybe it’s time we hopped to it?  –Lee Stilwater

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