California Ballot Prop Would Force State Takeover of Utilities

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SDG&E

SACRAMENTO – Activist Ben Davis, Jr., who led the 1980s initiative campaign to close the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant near Sacramento, now has an even more ambitious initiative project in the works.

 

The measure, which was cleared for signature-gathering Monday by Secretary of State Debra Bowen, would abolish the state’s investor-owned power companies — including Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), and replace them with the publicly owned “California Electrical Utility District.”

The measure must gain 504,760 voter signatures by July 1 to qualify for the ballot.

 

If the ballot measure gains the needed number of signatures and then wins voter approval, all investor-owned utilities would be replaced by the state-owned utility, managed by an 11-member board of directors elected from districts across the state. Existing publicly owned utilities such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District would not be affected by the ballot measure, though they could choose to join the California Electrical Utility District if they wished.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, the measure would give the state district the power to “acquire property, construct facilities necessary to supply electricity, set electricity rates, impose taxes, and issue bonds.”

One thing counting in favor of the concept behind the measure: removing the profit motive from generation and transmission would likely allow a renewable energy policy less skewed toward remote utility-scale projects and toward more efficient, effective generation near demand.

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