By Jay Powell
Hold on to your wallets, you are about to get walloped. International energy giant Sempra Energy, owners of SDG&E, have set up a front group called “Fix My Energy Bill” to promote a whopping $120 per year fixed charge on every electric customers bill in the State of California. It is pending in the State Senate in the waning days of this legislative session.
What started out as a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Perea from Fresno to ostensibly help poor elderly folks sweltering in the Central Valley heat be able to afford air conditioning, AB 327 has morphed into a full blown attack on working families ability to control their energy bills and to make homeowner investments in energy efficiency devices and improvements including roof top solar much more difficult.
The Sierra Club and local and state solar industry representatives are trying to blunt this latest proposal by the three huge investor owned utilities Pacific Gas and Electric, SoCal Edison and SDG&E to perpetuate their antiquated business plans that depends on them building more and more power plants and huge transmission lines.
Earlier this year the state Public Utilities Commission denied SDG&Es request to purchase power from two new power plants proposed for San Diego, including the Quail Brush plant on designated open space across the road from Mission Trails park, finding that there was not a need. But they did grant SDG&E a huge 12% increase in rates.
Why all the squawking from Sempra pals, when they just got a rate increase? Well, if that rate increase is hitched to a system that rewards lower energy using customers with a lower rate and more of your customers are choosing to invest in ways to use less energy, you are going to run out of people to foot the bill for what could well be an over built system, let alone one that adds more power plants.
But wait! San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations (with the delightful acronym, “SONGS”) has been shut down permanently. That means the 440 Megawatt (MW) share of power going to SDG&E vanished. Actually it vanished 20 months ago when they discovered the damaged steam generators. And we have been doing quite well without it.
At a joint task force workshop with all the leaders of the California Energy Commission and PUC and Independent System Operator and Air Resources Board and Water Resources Board there was a lot of hand wringing over what to do about the SONGS shutdown.
SDG&E, part owner of SONGS lost no time upon the announcement in reapplying to the PUC for authorization to buy 300 MWs of power from the proposed Pio Pico power plant in east Otay Mesa. In case you missed it in the 10 point type note in your power bill a couple of months ago, this will cost SDG&E customers another $1.6 Billion over the next couple of decades.
But data provided by local energy consultant Bill Powers on behalf of the Sierra Club to that task force record has shown that there is already a glut of new gas-fired power coming on line in Southern California.
In addition, Powers has cited national data that shows that utilities nationwide are facing a very serious prospect of not being able to build more power plants and derive their guaranteed rate of return profits from those facilities because home and business owners have done an incredible job of reducing their net energy consumption. Appliances and buildings are much more efficient and many are putting solar energy on their roofs to the extent that they are net energy producers!
In San Diego County alone there is a conservative estimate of 7,000 MWs roof top and parking lot cover solar generation possible. That is over three times what SONGs was putting out. And it doesn’t take 2.3 Billlion Gallons of seawater a day to cool it. Nor does it release more Greenhouse gases or require more expensive power lines. It just puts the juice in the existing lines to run down the block to your neighboring homes and businesses.
The benefits to everyone are manifold. Cleaner air, more well paying jobs, energy independence. But it doesn’t work for Sempra. And they don’t want to try to help us all make the transition to the promise such a community-based, local clean energy future represents.
Instead, Sempra is paying for lobbyists and websites and public relations folks to push this latest special interest bill through the state legislature. The genesis of the Fix My Energy Bill front group was touched on in a U-T San Diego August 21 article by reporter Morgan Lee.
The funding by Sempra for the website and other work in support of AB 327 was funneled through the “Independent Voter PAC” , a part of a network of organizations that include principals Steve Peace and Peace’s former chief of staff David Takashima. The work was done by “IVC, LLC” headed by Peace’s son, Chad Peace. You might remember that Peace and Takashima were the principal architects of the energy deregulation without oversight that led to the Enron debacle of 2000-2001.
Pete Hasapopoulos, Organizer with the local Sierra Club San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter “Run with the Sun” program notes that the Fix My Energy Bill group is set up to respond to on line and print media comments by any bill opponents (Editor forewarned).
Run with the Sun and the affiliated statewide My Generation campaign is working with local and statewide groups such as the Environmental Health Coalition and California Environmental Justice Alliance to counter the misinformation put out by Sempra and their front group promoting AB 327. They have a website and links to communicate with your state representative and the Governor. Key State Senators in San Diego include Marty Block (North, Central and Coast), Ben Hueso (South Bay and Imperial Counties) and Joel Anderson (East County and Temecula).
You might want to send them a message this week. Only 17 more shopping days left in Sacramento.
www.runwithsun.org, Run With The Sun FaceBook
Find your state senator by typing your address in this link
Jay Powell is sometime commentator to the San Diego Free Press – where this originally was published. He worked with the Community Energy Action Network in the late seventies an early eighties to promote soft energy path alternatives and currently serves on the Run with the Sun steering committee.