California utility companies critical to ongoing community partnerships
Utility company equipment failure blamed for the fires that ravaged Napa and Sonoma counties last fall By GWEN MOORE, Guest Contributor Wildfires and the aftermaths are one of the most talked about issues in the state because
Utility company equipment failure blamed for the fires that ravaged Napa and Sonoma counties last fall
By GWEN MOORE, Guest Contributor
Wildfires and the aftermaths are one of the most talked about issues in the state because of the potentially devastating financial impact on California Utility companies. State legislators are pondering solutions. California’s investor-owned companies are also searching for solutions that will address the current problems in the law without harming their business structure and their commitments to the communities they serve.
Utility company equipment failure has been blamed for the fires that ravaged Napa and Sonoma counties last fall. News reports stated more than 50 lawsuits have been filed over the Napa and Sonoma fires. The estimated cost of the damage is $10 billion.
However, according to a report by Cal Fire, it was determined “the fire started in two locations and was caused by tree or parts of trees falling onto PG&E power lines.”
California has been hit with a new round of wildfires this summer. Some quickly blamed utilities. However, climatologists say that global warming has caused dryer summers, which increases the chances of wildfires.
Utilities are willing to pay their fair share if they are responsible. They argued that they should only be responsible for the damage caused by their equipment and not natural causes.
If lawmakers don’t find a solution, it has the potential to open the floodgate for unfair lawsuits against utilities, especially considering that hundreds of people were affected by the recent wildfires in Northern California.
If California utilities are hit with billions of dollars in lawsuits, there could be a trickle-down effect. Utility companies are good corporate citizens and invest in community programs, community-based organizations and projects that better the communities they serve. If the health and vitality of the California utility companies are at risk, their support to communities throughout the state through millions of charitable dollars could also be at risk.
Simeon Gant, founder and executive director of Green Tech Education, a nonprofit based in Sacramento; Barry Moline, executive director of the California Municipal Association; Earl “Skip” Cooper, president/CEO of the Black Business Association, the oldest minority business association in California, all cite the important support that communities receive from utilities in California. They strongly encourage legislators who are looking for solutions to consider the possible unintended consequences on the charitable giving of these companies.
According to the California Public Utilities Commission’s 2016 Supplier Diversity Annual Report, utilities spent more than $9 billion with women and minority-owned companies. This represents 30 percent of their spending. California Utilities Supplier Diversity Programs are among the strongest in the nation.
It is important for legislators to remember the thousands of jobs created in California communities by investor-owned utilities and the households that depend on those jobs for their quality of life.
The investor-owned utility companies are critical to California’s numerous clean energy initiatives including renewable energy, electric vehicles, grid modernization to benefit distributed energy resource and investments related to the storage market among many others.
Much is at stake not only for California’s investor-owned utility companies and the communities they serve but also for the state’s energy future. This kind of partnership can only continue if the investor-owned utilities remain healthy and stable.
The Honorable Gwen Moore served in the California State Assembly from 1979 through 1994 and as its Majority Whip during that tenure. She served 12 years as chair of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, which had jurisdiction over the California cable television industry, emerging business enterprises, international trade and tourism, California ports, trucking, rail, and all investor-owned utilities including water, telecommunications, and energy.