The president of the California Public Utilities Commission is prepared to protect Pacific Gas and Electric Company from bankruptcy. Activist say there’s a much better option: The state should take over the company, or break it up and turn it over to existing municipal utility operations.
At the very least, a criminal enterprise that has a long history of diverting money from safety to executive bonuses should not get a state bailout.
The CPUC meets in San Francisco Thursday/29. There’s nothing about a bailout on the agenda, but there’s an opportunity for public comment. Democratic Socialists of America and climate justice advocates are asking people to show up and send a strong message: No to PG&E Bailouts – and let’s take this opportunity to turn a poorly run private company into a greener, cleaner, cheaper public power agency.
With that backdrop, PG&E teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and the California Public Utility Commission is now thinking of breaking up the utility. But the commission shouldn’t stop at breaking up PG&E. The public should take it over.
That, in fact, is what should be happening with investor-owned utilities across the country: move them out of the hands of corporate power and into democratic, local control.
Investor-owned utilities, with their primary focus on shareholder returns and constant growth, are simply not suited for the shift California’s leadership has said it wants to make—and the nation must make as well—from a fossil-fuel-based, extractive economy to an environmentally sustainable energy model that puts the needs and interests of communities first and equitably distributes wealth.
In a re-imagined, fully California-owned and operated electricity system, regional Grid Operators could operate alongside local government CCAs. Publicly-owned regional Grid Operators could manage energy delivery throughout different regions of the state while also keeping the grid safe, investing in modernization, and enabling electrification of new sectors of our economy (like transportation). Local government CCAs could take on the tasks of building or procuring energy generation and reducing energy consumption (particularly for those with the highest energy burdens), much as East Bay Community Energy does.
A publicly-owned system can enable effective institutions for community participation. Through community-based renewable energy projects, investments in local workforces, and a focus on equitable outcomes, the electricity system can be a core tool for building vibrant local economies across the state. California’s takeover could serve as a model for other states fed up with the predatory practices of investor-owned utilities and jumpstart a wider shift across the country toward democratically controlled renewable energy.
The meeting starts at 9:30am at 505 Van Ness. A rally will start at 9, before the meeting.