California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by some seeing eye » Sat Apr 27, 2019 3:29 pm

My magic wand would have one or more newly formed public utilities buy the assets of PG&E in the bankruptcy court. I think they should partner with SMUD to provide the software and systems to run it rather than building new. I've met SMUD people and they are very innovative. Ditto innovation at LADPW and Seattle City Light - so public utilities can often do a much better job than a private utility. The MidAmerican-owned private utilities have been some of the least innovative. Some of the rural areas could become customer-owned coops. There are over 900 electric coops in the US.

Another approach is a non-bankruptcy condemnation. Boulder has been trying to condemn the assets of Xcel, the private utility, then make a municipal utility. Eventually the court will set the price and the city would issue municipal bonds to buy all the wires, poles, transformers, substations, generators, etc. Usually the craft staff would simply move over to the public utility.

So in the case of PG&E, the purchase price by the public entities from issuing bonds would be split between the plaintiffs in the lawsuits, retiring PG&E long term and short term debt, and the stockholders as determined by the bankruptcy court. You can follow that case - it's a federal case.

If someone buys PG&E they need to trim the trees now! (And upgrade the transmission protection equipment) Where your legislature and governor can do better than coddling PG&E shareholders and management, is to put in place law for no questions asked rapid tree trimming and attaching liability and fines to property owners that delay it. In my area, one of our native trees is the big leaf maple found in the parking strip. There are some pretty funky shaped trees trimmed around power lines. That's fine by me.

PG&E has generation resources, including hydro. Transmission lines are assets that can be sold separately. Both generation and transmission have their own recurring revenue streams.

What you can do with a public electric utility is to enter the public Internet service business to compete with cable and old phone companies. Their competitive advantage is "TV channel" service, that's a dying business with over the top services. You need fiber to the substations anyway, and you can do pole attach to get as deep as you like into neighborhoods with fiber to the home or wireless, using the same staff. Or you can rent your fiber back to the ATT/Verizon/Sprint/T-mob of the world. And you can do any number of "smart city" plays, which reduce city costs or improve resident services.

All IMO, of course!

(Many ePlayans know that one of the most illustrious heart-centered burner couples, who founded the first mobility camp, had one who worked in the utility industry. They refused to be promoted out of the union into management of a private utility because they would have had to do bad things. They were genius too, in successfully bringing-fly-into-Reno/SF virgin international campers into their service camp. They had a situation were fly-in virgins would prepare the camp days in advance. My experience, working with them and off playa, informs some of my posts about virgin solo v camps.)
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by ygmir » Sun Apr 28, 2019 6:56 am

Token wrote:
Sat Apr 27, 2019 9:08 am
ygmir wrote:
Sat Apr 27, 2019 6:51 am


... so perhaps PGE is looking at sources for funds/cash for the necessary costs of lawsuits, clean up, upgrades, forest clearing, etc, etc...?
If only it was that, there would be no problems. But it isn’t that.

No, they need to pay the CEO $6M in salary, pay dividends to the shareholders, and the ever popular hundreds of millions in bonuses, which BTW got approved by the bankruptcy judge.

Having a non-profit, public benefit, or public utility corporation doesn’t absolve them of any laws, liability or lawsuits.

What it does is target the fiduciary back to the customers and away from the greed of Wall Street.

When I as a consumer cannot choose a different provider for one of my life sustaining services, sorry, free market economics fail, and I want protection and Gulag-strength regulation.

Look at SMUD - 100 years of serving Sacramento and no big disasters, no fat CEO, no Wall Street.
understanding what you say, and all, I think your conflating what would happen if it were a publicly held utility, with what they have to do to function as a semi private company.
As a company, they need stock holders and investors. To have them, there needs to be a benefit, yes?
Dividends are a big deal to many folks who invest in PGE. And, they are not all "wall street" types. I know many folks who have PGE stock in their retirement or other accounts, because of the dividends and (at least historical) stability. Investors are not only the big players. Bonuses, for employees who work hard and do a good job, seems, again, to make sense to keep the company healthy and workers happy. They have to proceed as if they are (and they are) a private ish enterprise (PUC controls). As such, doing things that will help them survive, makes sense. And, yeah, the conflict is in us, the rate payers, not wanting to pay the extra 13 dollars per month (or whatever final figure it is), to go there. The CEO pay, yeah, it seem pretty dang high. I can see the angst related.....and yet, in a market where companies are paying these huge figures, the only way to attract top tier managers, is with pay. No one is going to take the job because they want to help....
So, your alternative is to become a "SMUD like" agency (is SMUD a lot different, or just smaller?)? Or maybe break PGE up into smaller, (theoretically) more efficient agencies/companies? Both seem a reasonable experiment, as long as factors are considered.
One factor being scale and abilities associated. If, for instance the Camp fire were in just the jurisdiction of one small company, there would be no way they could pay out, yeah? and the huge cost of infrastructure? I mean, yeah, if it were state run, they could dip into some fund somewhere to do it, and that might make sense?
I'm ambivalent about a break up/public conversion, seeing advantage to any of the 3 scenarios. My only real hesitation, is my cynicism related to anything run by the government, and bureaucrats therein...
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by Dr. Pyro » Sun Apr 28, 2019 9:29 am

Well said Yggy. The problem is that you're reasonable and not a communist. Too many people on this forum just think that somehow things will work out if we screw Wall Street, CEOs, the elderly (who depend upon dividends), and anyone else even remotely concerned about the good and welfare of our citizenry.

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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by some seeing eye » Sun Apr 28, 2019 10:39 am

Public electric utilities are much more common than private ones. Of about 3300 utilities in the US, only about 240 are private*. In my experience, public utilities are much better managed for the customers and their books and policies are under greater public scrutiny. The wholesale public utility I'm familiar with has very strong participation by its distribution utility customers in decision making.

Private utilities have distortions in their business practices. Some private utilities over invest to get as much equipment as they can in their rate base (paid for by customers) - my utility has just replaced most of their substation equipment very fast. Other private utilities underinvest - their substations are literally in danger of falling down. PG&E underinvested in tree trimming. Then there's Enron.

The public vs private company debate is age old.

Electric utilities are not a good example to hold up the superiority of private companies. Would we want a public GE, Amazon, Facebook, or Apple? Of course not. I admire the innovation of Google and Amazon to focus on long term performance rather than manipulating short term quarterly results.

*Before the depression and rural electrification, most utilities were privately held by JP Morgan and a handful of his gilded age buddies. Public utilities were specifically formed to provide a financial benchmark for private utilities. President Roosevelt directed SEC chair William O Douglas to dismantle them and the government set up several nonprofit federal power systems. Douglas went on to become an outstanding supreme court justice.
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by Dr. Pyro » Sun Apr 28, 2019 12:03 pm

some seeing eye wrote:
Sun Apr 28, 2019 10:39 am


Electric utilities are not a good example to hold up the superiority of private companies. Would we want a public GE, Amazon, Facebook, or Apple? Of course not. I admire the innovation of Google and Amazon to focus on long term performance rather than manipulating short term quarterly results.
Clearly a product of our public education system. All of those companies: GE, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple are publicly traded under the symbols GE, AMZN, FB, and AAPL. Unless you have a different definition of "public" (and it's possible that you do) then your statement makes no sense, though I am not necessarily disagreeing with the overall context of your comment.

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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by some seeing eye » Sun Apr 28, 2019 12:41 pm

Hi Doc, "private" throughout my post are investor owned, for profit - of course they are publicly traded. "Public" in my post are all the nonprofit public utility districts, municipal utilities and coops. At the wholesale level, the "public" utilities are the nonprofit RTO/ISOs and federal power marketing agencies. There are also "private" investor owned wholesale power companies owning generators and transmission lines. In the electric utility industry, that is the usage of public and private. In your investment world, different meaning.
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by Token » Sun Apr 28, 2019 7:20 pm

Lots of companies pay dividends to investors.

Most operate in a free market.

Utilities in general do not operate in a free market. They are by definition monopolies, by virtue of the cost of infrastructure.

Fabricating some sap story about poor helpless retirees and their fractional dividends loss when over 50,000 people lost everything they owned and 88 lost their lives is pretty fucked up.

There is a time and place for profits, people’s lives ain’t it.

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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by ygmir » Sun Apr 28, 2019 9:26 pm

Token wrote:
Sun Apr 28, 2019 7:20 pm
Lots of companies pay dividends to investors.

Most operate in a free market.

Utilities in general do not operate in a free market. They are by definition monopolies, by virtue of the cost of infrastructure.

Fabricating some sap story about poor helpless retirees and their fractional dividends loss when over 50,000 people lost everything they owned and 88 lost their lives is pretty fucked up.

There is a time and place for profits, people’s lives ain’t it.
you've lost me (in red). I don't see the comparison, or relation. can you help?
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by Token » Mon Apr 29, 2019 12:09 am

ygmir wrote:
Sun Apr 28, 2019 9:26 pm
Token wrote:
Sun Apr 28, 2019 7:20 pm
Lots of companies pay dividends to investors.

Most operate in a free market.

Utilities in general do not operate in a free market. They are by definition monopolies, by virtue of the cost of infrastructure.

Fabricating some sap story about poor helpless retirees and their fractional dividends loss when over 50,000 people lost everything they owned and 88 lost their lives is pretty fucked up.

There is a time and place for profits, people’s lives ain’t it.
you've lost me (in red). I don't see the comparison, or relation. can you help?
Sorry, should have quoted Doc’s words to attribute the reply better. He brought up the elderly as imaginary victims, right up there with Wall Street and underprivileged CEOs.

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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by ygmir » Mon Apr 29, 2019 6:14 am

Token wrote:
Mon Apr 29, 2019 12:09 am
ygmir wrote:
Sun Apr 28, 2019 9:26 pm
Token wrote:
Sun Apr 28, 2019 7:20 pm
Lots of companies pay dividends to investors.

Most operate in a free market.

Utilities in general do not operate in a free market. They are by definition monopolies, by virtue of the cost of infrastructure.

Fabricating some sap story about poor helpless retirees and their fractional dividends loss when over 50,000 people lost everything they owned and 88 lost their lives is pretty fucked up.

There is a time and place for profits, people’s lives ain’t it.
you've lost me (in red). I don't see the comparison, or relation. can you help?
Sorry, should have quoted Doc’s words to attribute the reply better. He brought up the elderly as imaginary victims, right up there with Wall Street and underprivileged CEOs.
ah ok, thanks.
Do you not feel, "average person" investors, of which there are a significant number, don't matter?
The point I was trying to make, previous, was that as a business, PGE needs investors and such, to "stay afloat".
I'm not addressing any ideas of "evil PGE" here, but, saying if indeed they are trying to remain a viable business, it would make sense they'd try to attract capitol, and ways to finance obligations, yes?
This does not apply, of course, if it became a public utility. I'm only saying what they are doing, makes sense in a business model.
That, has nothing to do with your resentment towards "Wall St." or "rich investors". The source of the investment money does not matter, in this scenario. Only, that they are trying to raise funds to continue operations, and pay off debts.
I would wonder, in terms of their overall budget, how much the bonuses and dividends, are as a percentage?
Doing things to attract capitol, and to create a good work environment and attitude, goes a lot way towards staying viable, as a business.
I'd submit, many would cheer PGE for bonuses and dividends, were they not being painted as some evil corporation.
Also, consider some of the mandates and such, starting many years ago, wherein they were discouraged from cutting trees and such, along power lines, because property owners and environmental groups complained that they were decimating the land... it's not so simple as many imply, IMHO.

Note for clarity: I support private enterprise, I resent government in general, and government take overs, in particular. I'm cynical towards government doing most anything right or efficiently, save for things laid out in the constitution...and even then at time question their ability there, but see it as necessary. I'm also not against some levels of regulation by government, of private industry.
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by Token » Mon Apr 29, 2019 1:31 pm

Its easy to isolate concepts to make a point.

Investors in PGE are unlikely to have ALL their investments in that one spot.

Investment comes with risks, anyone counting on returns to be guaranteed ... foolish.

So overall, I choose to selectively weigh my opinion based on broader criteria.

You may say that in a broader scope, investors made their choices, no one forced their hand, they backed a convicted criminally negligent company, and now they get to experience that reality.

Yes, PG&E as it is now, needs capital and investors. Today, that investment will carry significant risk. Investors beware.

There are consequences that impact everyone, consumes, investors and the general public. At some point the state has a duty to step in and squeeze some testes.

Disclaimer : I am a fan of enterprise. I own more than one business. I also like rules so I have a level playing field. I like reasonable government where it makes sense.

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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by some seeing eye » Mon Apr 29, 2019 3:27 pm

I would welcome facts on for profit and non profit utilities.

Today companies seek private investment in rare cycles of new equity stock offerings. Most of the frothy value for existing stockholders and buy low sell high traders of existing stocks is a different thing.

Here are facts specifically on the electric utility industry that take it outside Reagan and libertarian arguments. The USA electric utility industry is about 500 billion cash flow and about 100 billion capital investment yearly. Capital is financed by bonds, not new stock offerings by for-profit utilities.

The electric utility industry is the simplest of businesses. it is completely outside the President Reagan Newt argument that the government can do no good thinking. Utilities failing is completely unusual, beyond PG&E. Utilities have no customer competition and share financial metrics publicly with other utilities. They have staff sharing financial strategy, cost reduction and judgement. Utilities are easy to succeed, where other government entities struggle with change and social issues.
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by ygmir » Mon Apr 29, 2019 5:23 pm

Token wrote:
Mon Apr 29, 2019 1:31 pm
Its easy to isolate concepts to make a point.

Investors in PGE are unlikely to have ALL their investments in that one spot.

Investment comes with risks, anyone counting on returns to be guaranteed ... foolish.

So overall, I choose to selectively weigh my opinion based on broader criteria.

You may say that in a broader scope, investors made their choices, no one forced their hand, they backed a convicted criminally negligent company, and now they get to experience that reality.

Yes, PG&E as it is now, needs capital and investors. Today, that investment will carry significant risk. Investors beware.

There are consequences that impact everyone, consumes, investors and the general public. At some point the state has a duty to step in and squeeze some testes.

Disclaimer : I am a fan of enterprise. I own more than one business. I also like rules so I have a level playing field. I like reasonable government where it makes sense.
fair.
and thanks for an informative, polite conversation.
xoxo
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by Token » Mon Apr 29, 2019 5:59 pm

ygmir wrote:
Mon Apr 29, 2019 5:23 pm

fair.
and thanks for an informative, polite conversation.
xoxo
Always! You’re welcome.

Don’t be fooled. I wouldn’t be living out in the hills on a farm if I was some tree-hugging liberal.

It’s only when I don’t have choice and someone literally owns my ass should they want to screw with me. I get pissed at the monopolies. PG&E, AT&T, all the cable, cellular companies, pharma, insurance companies ... I really want them to hurt a little bit. They need regulations cuz profits on misery of others is not right in my book.

The rest - less is more in my book.

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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by ygmir » Tue Apr 30, 2019 7:50 am

Token wrote:
Mon Apr 29, 2019 5:59 pm
ygmir wrote:
Mon Apr 29, 2019 5:23 pm

fair.
and thanks for an informative, polite conversation.
xoxo
Always! You’re welcome.

Don’t be fooled. I wouldn’t be living out in the hills on a farm if I was some tree-hugging liberal.

It’s only when I don’t have choice and someone literally owns my ass should they want to screw with me. I get pissed at the monopolies. PG&E, AT&T, all the cable, cellular companies, pharma, insurance companies ... I really want them to hurt a little bit. They need regulations cuz profits on misery of others is not right in my book.

The rest - less is more in my book.
yeah, I get that, and agree, in large part. My struggle is, often, these huge companies started small , and grew so huge. In that, I applaud their work and ingenuity. But, I resent, the crushing of smaller companies and the opportunity for them.

On one hand I see "economy of scale" working in that it often takes a huge company, to do some things. But, with no competition, as you say, we are hostage. And especially related to utilities, and the fact that some of those services are essential, and there are no "choices". I believe the companies are entitled to a good profit, I don't feel obscene profits are ok, in that sense when related to essential services society needs to function, and that there is no alternative, or viable one, anyway. Ergo, my ambivalence.

As I understand the PUC is supposed to work on these issues?
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by Token » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:04 am

ygmir wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 7:50 am

As I understand the PUC is supposed to work on these issues?
And there is where I completely understand your distrust of government.

Yeah, they did for a while, then it got politicized, followed by grand rectal-cranial inversions, with a dash of corruption...

So we get something that is worst of breed, limps along, and is ingrained like an Alabama tick.

The American Dream - maybe it came true? ;)

Don’t matter much to me in the end; got my Truck, got my tools, rocking chair and the shotgun.

And I can piss off my porch and not hit a neighbor! :)

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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by ygmir » Tue Apr 30, 2019 4:48 pm

Token wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:04 am
ygmir wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 7:50 am

As I understand the PUC is supposed to work on these issues?
And there is where I completely understand your distrust of government.

Yeah, they did for a while, then it got politicized, followed by grand rectal-cranial inversions, with a dash of corruption...

So we get something that is worst of breed, limps along, and is ingrained like an Alabama tick.

The American Dream - maybe it came true? ;)

Don’t matter much to me in the end; got my Truck, got my tools, rocking chair and the shotgun.

And I can piss off my porch and not hit a neighbor! :)
this
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by some seeing eye » Tue May 21, 2019 10:03 pm

I was at a talk recently on electric utilities and fires in Northern California.

Over 50% of wildfires are caused by lightning. Electric utilities are a tiny percentage. Fire size is correlated by vegetation dryness and wind speed.

One Western utility reports that inspection and vegetation trimming is their largest expense budget item, bigger than equipment maintenance, customer service, billing, etc. They are forecasting about a 10% rate increase for fire resistance and prevention. The biggest item is slightly improving the fire resistance of wood poles (resist fire) and replacing bare wire with insulated overhead wire (prevent starting fires.) I would imagine PG&E rate increase would be higher, and they would be doing similar things. The Cali PUC has a huge amount of public data on their website. They also have fire risk zones mapped.

The other thing that was interesting is that the SDGE preventative outage program started in 2012 - powering down the grid in an area to prevent fire - is now expanded into some of NorCal. The median outage is 31 hours with a target of 48 hours or less advance notice.

It's odd, too, that our little fire festival had 447 blocked for a range fire, which could happen any time.
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Re: California Fires: Camp, Lost, Eden, Mountaineer, Woolsey, etc.

Post by Token » Tue Jun 18, 2019 7:59 pm

PG&E proposes $1 Billion settlement with 14 government entities for fires from 2015 to 2018.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pg-e ... SKCN1TJ30O

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