The California Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 10 opened a docket to implement the provisions of Senate Bill 901 enacted last year, allowing utilities to pass some of their costs to ratepayers. The commission said it will adopt a methodology for wildfire cost recovery, but will not adopt any specific financial outcome for future applications. The move comes as Pacific Gas and Electric faces billions of dollars in liability, and intense scrutiny from regulators in the wake of last November’s Camp Fire in Butte County, the largest in California’s history. The process will determine how the utility may charge customers to retrieve the cost of recent wildfires.
Last month, the commission announced it is considering reforms ranging from splitting Pacific Gas and Electric into separate electric and gas companies to reconstituting into a public entity, noting that the utility has had serious safety issues with its gas and electric operations for many years. The agency also initiated a proceeding to examine rules for proactive de-energization of power lines during wildfire threats.
SB 901 requires the commission to determine the maximum amount the utility can pay without harming ratepayers and maintaining adequate and safe service. In adopting the criteria, the commission said it is “mindful of both the finite resources of ratepayers and the importance of maintaining financially viable utilities.” The agency is seeking input regarding the factors or metrics that should be considered when examining a utility’s financial status, measures or metrics required to find out how ratepayers are harmed, and defining the material impact on a utility’s ability to serve customers.
Comments are due by Feb. 11.