Editorial: California needs a new model for how power is delivered

Gov. Gavin Newsom ripped Pacific Gas & Electric on Thursday,
calling the power shutdown that affected hundreds of thousands of
Californians unacceptable.

“This is not a climate change story as much as a story about
greed and mismanagement over the course of decades,” he said.
“Neglect, a desire to advance not public safety but
profits.”

We agree.

The question is what, if anything, is the governor going to do
about it.

Last May, we said that CalFire’s confirmation that PG&E
caused the Camp Fire — the deadliest and most destructive fire in
California history — bolstered the case for Newsom to replace or
break up the felonious utility. But he did neither.

So the state may be stuck with PG&E as the utility emerges
from bankruptcy, likely controlled by a hedge fund. The options are
limited — for now.

For the short term, the governor should consider changing
PG&E’s incentive structure to a performance-based model. The
current cost-of-service approach, guaranteeing PG&E a lucrative
rate of return on capital investments, has failed at forcing the
utility to put a premium on safety.

The governor needs to think long-term and ensure Californians of
more reliable power providers. That means establishing microgrids
in communities throughout California. That means maximizing the use
of solar and wind power to generate power closer to homes and
businesses throughout the region, thereby reducing the risk of
electricity shutdowns.

That work must begin now.

The alternative is saddling future generations with an outdated
system that is an embarrassment to a region that prides itself in
innovation.

PG&E’s aging infrastructure has to go. Relying on massive
power plants fired by fossil fuels is the technological equivalent
of making phone calls with a rotary-dial phone. Keeping electrical
lines strung over thousands of miles of forests and tinder-dry
brush invites continued catastrophe. Especially as the impact of
climate change grows.

The power system of the future needs to walk hand-in-hand with
the state’s clean energy goals.

The governor should provide incentives for the further
development of community choice aggregators (CCAs), which allow
local governments to form their own energy providers and act
independently from utilities such as PG&E. A half-dozen CCAs
are already operating or on the verge of offering energy
alternatives in the Bay Area.

CCAs aren’t perfect. But they carry the capacity to install
the microgrids that can serve as a power source for cities when
utilities shut off power during adverse weather conditions.

California got about 35 percent of its power from renewable
energy sources in 2018, according to the state’s Energy
Commission. The state has set a target of 60% by 2030, and
eventually 100% clean energy.

Those goals and PG&E’s failures make clear that Newsom
needs to transform how power is delivered throughout Northern
California.

Starting today.

 

Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Editorial: California needs a new model for how power is delivered