Pacific Gas and Electric has been held accountable for $8 billion in damages and has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy following multiple liability claims for the Camp Fire. The immediate effects of this development for both the State of California and its utility ratepayers are unclear. However, there are a few possible outcomes and consequences to be extrapolated. Here’s what our top-level execs have to say about the immediate consequences of PG&E’s bankruptcy:
- The state will not allow its grid to shut down.
- Electric bills for PG&E customers are likely to continue to rise.
- The legislature will not unduly punish solar customers.
- It’s a great time to go solar.
It is believed the fire was started when a PG&E power line came in contact with nearby trees. PG&E reported ‘an outage’ on a transmission line in the area where the blaze began, about 15 minutes before it started. Within the massive burn area, PG&E found power equipment and a fallen power pole riddled with bullet holes, according to a letter it sent to regulators. The company also reported that it found a downed line with tree branches on it.
All in all, it’s likely that PG&E will face dramatic restructuring and it will take a long time for their stock price to recover from what’s now a more than 50% dip since November. This will have little to no effect on those not using their services, except that solar energy just became an even better deal for the consumer.
The company, California’s largest investor-owned utility, has 16 million customers across a 70,000-square-mile service area in Northern and Central California. There was some speculation that PG&E was bluffing in order to force aid from California. CNBC’s David Faber said that sources told him that is not the case.
PG&E faces at least $30 billion in potential liability costs stemming from wildfires in 2017 and 2018, many allegedly started by the company’s equipment, that have led state officials to doubt the safety of the company’s electric distribution system.
Investigators have already determined PG&E’s equipment liable in at least 17 major wildfires in 2017. State investigators are still working to determine if the company’s equipment was partly responsible for November’s Camp Fire, which killed at least 86 people and destroyed about 14,000 homes, making it the state’s deadliest fire.”