In reading Rob Davis’ article on Feb. 14, there is an important player in this “blame” game that was only mentioned twice: the California Public Utility Commission. The reality is that the appointed members of the CPUC dictate some of the most key aspects to utility companies’ operation. The CPUC sets the rates for power, decides which infrastructure projects get approved and how those costs can be passed to customers, and approves customer costs for other operational decisions.

For San Diego Gas & Electric to be considered solely liable for these fires is both factually misleading and pragmatically irresponsible. With virtually all major decisions for their utility operation being dictated by the CPUC, the state also holds culpability. Unfortunately, the CPUC is more interested in using utility companies as tax collectors to fund the state’s renewable energy goals, by including those costs in everyone’s power bills, than it is in addressing the real needs and safety issues of California’s power grid.

The result is inevitable: California’s energy costs rank among the highest in the nation, while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regards our electrical infrastructure as among the worst. And because the CPUC is politically liable for electricity costs and has prioritized renewable goals over other needs, there is no room in California’s already high energy prices to fund things like infrastructure improvements and liability insurance. It is no wonder that fires and blackouts have become the new normal.

To hold SDG&E liable for causing fires while operating in this regulatory environment is akin to handing a bucket to one of the Titanic’s midshipmen, and then suing him because the ship sank. The generation, transmission and delivery of energy is risky and expensive. And if San Diegans continue to be interested in having electricity delivered to their homes, they will need to cover the costs of those factors and a minor profit for SDG&E. The only alternative is a publicly-owned utility — if San Diegans are inclined to pay for another public pension system.

The good news is that safer, more efficient, reliable and inexpensive service from SDG&E is possible for the long term. However, that will require a major shift in our politicians’ collective priorities to focus on the infrastructure needs and safety of the California electrical grid, rather than Sacramento’s political agendas.

In the meantime, playing the blame game means considering where the real decisions that have led to the state of electrical service in San Diego County, and its consequences, are made.

John Gordon lives in La Mesa.


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