On Wednesday, August 3, the Coalition of California Utility Employees (CUE), which represents workers at most of the state’s major public and private utilities, signed a major settlement agreement for the PG&E General Rate Case.
The General Rate Case (GRC) is the state-mandated process that PG&E and other investor-owned utilities must go through every three years in order to request funding from the California Public Utilities Commission for costs related to power distribution. The process includes input from all interested parties, and is designed to ensure transparency in the way that PG&E structures its operations and investments.
The new CUE agreement provides funding for additional work above and beyond what PG&E had originally asked for, worth about $27 million per year, in the areas of pole replacement, underground cable replacement, grasshopper switches and FLISR installations. It also includes a commitment from PG&E to a four-year gas leak survey cycle and prompt repair of grade 3 leaks, along with adoption of a mandatory three-year leak survey cycle for all gas utilities.
The agreement also stipulates that PG&E will develop a program to identify overloaded poles (SoCal Edison has already identified hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of overloaded poles needing replacement). Additionally, PG&E will strive for “steady state replacement” of operating equipment necessary for safe and reliable service, and no customer service offices will be closed without a new, separate application, which cannot be filed until July 1, 2018. Separately, Local 1245 and PG&E entered into an agreement that provides for increased staffing in several areas.
All of the active parties, including the Office of Ratepayer Advocates and The Utility Reform Network, signed the agreement and almost all issues were resolved. The CPUC is expected to make a final decision in the GRC before the end of the year.
“If approved, it would be one of our most successful GRC outcomes,” noted Marc Joseph, attorney for CUE. “PG&E is very happy with the agreement as it provides the funding believed needed to do the work and remain healthy.”