PG&E’s bankruptcy court revealed that the company may dump its state-mandated renewable energy source contracts that cost up to 800 percent more than market rates.
California mandated a zero carbon emissions future by passing the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. With PG&E residential electric rates rising by 71 percent to subsidizing renewables, Northern Californians’ electricity costs 19.30 cents per kilowatt-hour, or about double the 10.66 cents in Oregon and 9.46 cents in Washington.
Pacific Gas & Electric filed for “Chapter 22” in January, as California’s largest utility was forced for the second time in 15 years into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to the state’s social justice legal and regulatory system.
Under a 1999 Court of Appeals’ opinion in Barham v. S. Cal. Edison Co. that established “inverse condemnation” for all weather-driven power line sparking risks caused by wildfires, regardless of any determination of negligence by the utility or its staff, PG&E is responsibility for $30 billion in wildfire claims over the last two years.
The California governor and the state Legislature have the authority to make changes to state law or direct the Public Utility Commission to exempt utilities from unlimited liability. But such a move would make California liable for its risky forest management.
But the U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceedings revealed that the company has $34.7 billion of overpriced renewable energy contracts costing up to $197 per megawatt-hour that could be replaced with new contracts priced at between $25–30 per megawatt-hour.
Despite PG&E warnings that residential rates are set to rise substantially, California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom and the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission partnered to claim that FERC has “concurrent jurisdiction” with federal bankruptcy courts to protect a “public interest” regarding wildly overpriced renewables power purchase agreements.
The court testimony illuminated that California and FERC were trying to protect the monetary interests of three huge corporations that include Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s 550-megawatt Topaz solar farm, NextEra Energy’s 250-megawatt Genesis Solar farm, and Consolidated Edison Renewable Energy portfolio.
Judge Dennis Montali ruled on June 7 that Chapter 11 debtors under law have the option, and without the consent of the other parties, to reject, assume, or assign most of its contracts or leases. The decision could save PG&E between $1.5 and $4.5 billion per year, according to varying projections by Wall Street analysts.
California already gets 34 percent of its power from renewables, and utilities under S.B. 100 enacted last year must reach 50 percent in 2026 and 60 percent in 2030. But lobbyists understand that the bankruptcy judge’s decision may have doomed the ability of crony capitalists to finance huge solar and wind projects based on bureaucrats jacking up electricity rates on working class consumers.
Gov. Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Click tried to give the appearance of strength when he told a Sacramento Bee reporter: “Our office is closely monitoring and will not allow bankruptcy to interfere with the state’s renewable energy goals.”