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An article by Onell Soto in this morning's diminutive daily paper informs us that San Diego Gas and Electric Company now has permission from California's Public Utilities Commission to install $100 million in solar panels on SDG&E's own property, generating about 26 megawatts as part of an effort to meet the state 2020 goal of having 33 percent of its electricity for sale come from alternative energy sources instead of fossil fuels.

I haven't yet seen either SDG&E's application nor the CPUC order to do it, but I am betting that Soto was only fed part of the story from SDG&E here. It was totally coincidental that I put out a blog post earlier this week about how it would cost us individually about $300 each for us 1.5 million SDG&E small business and residential customers to set up one square yard each of off-grid solar panels, generating something on the high side of 60 megawatts of our own power at zero fuel costs forever after.

Now, I am a fairly new subscriber to CPUC's subscription service, where subscribers usually receive email links to efiled documents such as consumer Complaints, commissioners' Orders Instituting Investigations, various Motions, Protests and Replies, Briefs, and the kind of thing mentioned above, Final Decisions on Applications submitted by all kinds of California public utilities. My subscriptions are for power industry filings in general (as opposed to other regulated things like cable providers, cell phones or local bus routes), and for certain specific proceedings involving SDG&E like WEBA and PSW/PSH. Typically, the links I get emailed from CPUC are for documents that were “filed” (as CPUC defines the term “filed”) days or even a week or more earlier, depending on how long it takes for CPUC to receive, review, and accept a particular document as “filed”.

If you were doing $100 million in remodeling on your property, wouldn't you love it if you didn't have to pay for it? If you had a corporation that owned you and your property, wouldn't you just expect that corporation to not want to pay for it either?

As I said, I haven't seen the application filed by SDG&E and received as filed by CPUC, and I'd feel especially blessed if CPUC sends a subscription link to the Final Decision by close of business today, but I can bet I can find the SDG&E Application in less than five minutes once I get to wifi-land, go to http://cpuc.ca.gov and look down the page for the Docket Card link.

Once I get there, I expect to find things SDG&E didn't want to discuss with Soto, like who gets billed for SDG&E's $100 million improvements on SDG&E's property. The mode of operation for SDG&E is to ALWAYS file an application for anything that includes authority to bill customers for the cost, as long as it can get away with it. This is the best of all possible worlds for investors, as there is never a risk to the investors' stake if customers are ALWAYS responsible for the tab.

Now, it can be argued that SDG&E's improvements on SDG&E's property are a matter of investment by SDG&E's holding company Sempra Energy. After all, it is Sempra Energy that gets the dividend benefits of owning SDG&E every day, averaging in the neighborhood of about $10 billion a year in reported corporate income from all operations over the last half of a decade. According to CPUC, Sempra Energy does have a first priority condition on CPUC's permission to Sempra Energy for owning SDG&E, and that first priority condition requires Sempra Energy to infuse working and other necessary capital into SDG&E when SDG&E needs it to provide service to customers, even if it causes a loss to Sempra Energy.

CPUC insiders know that the nearly-decade-old Decision by CPUC, stating the meaning of the first priority condition on capital infusions to owned utilities, is something that neither SDG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, nor Sempra Energy and the rest of the state's power utility holding companies want anybody to be talking about in public. Once CPUC stated what utility holding company must do regarding capital infusions, the investor owned utilities (known collectively to CPUC as the IOU) all appealed in state court and lost. The state appeals court told the IOUs that CPUC decides what CPUC means when it allows a corporation to own a California public utility, and not a peep on the matter has been heard from or seen filed by the IOUs or their corporate parents since that appellate court ruling in that now-closed CPUC proceeding for years and years.

It's like they want it to disappear by neglect and extinction. I am sure their speculating investors would love if that happened.

In my previous blog, I stated that about 24 square yards of off-grid solar panels would allow me to generate about 1 kilowatt of power, at no cost beyond the initial purchase of those panels over a two-year period at about $250 or less per square yard. If 1.5 million of us only had one square yard of off-grid solar panels, I figured we'd be generating somewhere around 60 megawatts during daylight hours, the time that SDG&E wants to charge us the most for power that comes free from the Sun (see SDG&E's PeakShift at Work/PeakShift at Home proposed business hour rates for residential and small business customers).

If all 1.5 million of us had the same kilowatt each of always-on off-grid backup in case of power grid failure, then we would be collectively generating something in excess of 1,440 megawatts, at no fuel cost and with a combined operating carbon footprint of zero. Our direct cost for this to SDG&E and Sempra Energy's institutional shareholders would be zero just because us San Diegans are nice people. Sempra Energy wold lose nothing on our producing and using our own power without SDG&E because SDG&E will surely move for (and CPUC would most likely approve of) raising its rates on anybody else it can, so that Sempra Energy can keep paying out dividends at 35-40% of Sempra's quarterly retained earnings.

SDG&E reportedly distributes 4,500 megawatts on the hottest summer days. “However, the use of locally generated solar energy will decrease the need to import power or use [additional fossil-fueled peaker] power plants, [SDG&E spokesperson Art] Larson said” in the report by Soto.

Just imagine how much we'd save by cutting SDG&E's 4,500 megawatt maxed-out summertime peak load to us by 1,440 megawatts. Think of all of the fossil-fueled peaker power plants that SDG&E would not have to build and spend our money on...

Comments
1

What a rip off, they will not pay US to generate Power via clean Solar but they can get the OK to install Solar on their own property and pay themselves more than they will pay US!

I think the CPUC should be "Impeached" or disbanded and another group made up of voters chosen at random (and given or paid the same benefits as the current CPUC has received) and let them rule...

This should be a CA Governor Political debate topic, since it affects every rate payer in California...SDG&E is nothing but a rip off Monopoly that is now RAPING it's customers while telling them it for their own good!

What's wrong with that picture?

Sept. 3, 2010

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