Five Money-Wasters from California S Biggest Utilities

Five Money-Wasters from California S Biggest Utilities

Five Money-Wasters from California’s Biggest Utilities

California’s biggest utilities - Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) - are pushing billions of dollars onto customer billsin order to build unnecessary dirty power projects and support an outdated business model. These utilities view rooftop solar as a threat to their old profit model built on dirty and expensive power plants and forcing their customers to foot the bill. It’s the best way utilities in California can keep making huge profits.

To that end, here are the top five money-wasters:
1. Choking on Coal (Tupman, CA): There’s no place for a coal power plant in California’s future, and it’s especially reckless to try to build a coal power plant in outside Bakersfield, a city that suffers from some of the worst smog and asthma rates in the country. The so-called “Hydrogen Energy California” (HECA) coal project would exceed government standards for smog causing nitrogen dioxide by more than 1,500%[i] and the financial costs are high - SCE has already charged its customers for a $30 million dollar feasibility study in the hopes of eventually building this $3.15 billion coal plant.[ii] Californians don’t need a study to know that coal’s air and water pollution has no place in California’s energy mix.

TOTAL COST: $3.15 billion

2. Gas Guzzlers (San Diego County, CA): San Diego and has more rooftop solar per capita than any city in the state; its abundant sunlight makes it an ideal location for rooftop solar. San Diego Gas & Electric has other ideas though. They’re trying to force nearly $2 billion in natural gas projects onto customer bills when the power isn’t needed. “There is no danger that the lights will go out if the utilities commission rejects ... the Pio Pico and Quail Brush plants,” according to consumer watchdog the Utility Reform Network.[iii] Meanwhile, if constructed, the project promises to pour more climate disrupting pollution into the atmosphere.

TOTAL COST: $2 billion

3. Outmoded Oakley Power Plant (Oakley, CA): What’s worse thanpaying for a $1.5 billion dirty gas plant? Paying for a $1.5 billion natural gas plant that PG&E can’t justify. As the Division of Ratepayer Advocates found, “PG&E does not demonstrate need for the Oakley project, nor is Oakley the appropriate method to fill any perceived need.”[iv] The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) originally agreed, finding that the power plant served no purpose within PG&E’s energy. However, following intense lobbying by PG&E and allies, the CPUC reversed course and approved the project.
TOTAL COST: $1.5 billion
4. Negligent Nukes (San Diego County, CA): Southern California Edison and SDG&E are charging ratepayers millions of dollars for a dangerous and faulty nuclear power plant in north San Diego County that’s been offline for over a year. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has come under serious investigation recently because of major safety concerns, leading to its shutdown.[v] In 2005, SCE billed customers $774 million for the equipment which, seven short years later turned out to be faulty.[vi] According to Senator Boxer, SCE knew the equipment was faulty at the time they installed it.[vii]

TOTAL COST: $774 million and counting

5. Pre-Gutenberg Billing:It’s not enough to just push dirty energy projects onto customer bills, solar customers also face heavy fees, thanks to archaic billing practices. Take, for example, PG&E, where the simple billing of solar customers costs PG&E customers five to ten times more than SCE or SDG&E.[viii] Compare PG&E’s $30 per month fee to SCE’s $3 and you’d think Northern and Southern California are continents apart. Turns out PG&E still uses manual billing for solar customers, decades after nearly everything else has been computerized. Customers, of course, foot the bill for this antiquated approach - time to switch from abacus to automation.
TOTAL COST: $30 per month for solar customers!
These efforts are not only cost Californians money, they block the expansion of local clean energy like rooftop solar. Californians cannot afford more dirty energy. It’s time we fundamentally changed the way we generate power, and our families, schools, and businesses have a right to contribute to the path towards clean energy. It’s time for big utilities to ditch the dirty energy projects support clean energy solutions like rooftop solar. Learn more by visiting

Sierra Club -- 3/7/13 -- Contact: Evan Gillespie -- -- (203) 376-1679

[i]Bakersfield Californian:

[ii]Southern California Edison

[iii]San Diego Union-Tribune:

[iv]Division of Ratepayer Advocates:

[v]Southern California Public Radio:

[vi]Los Angeles Times:


[viii]Vote Solar & Crossborder Energy: