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MoPOP at dusk, Seattle

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Power Grab

photo: Orange County Register

I guess that I have always been sort of a weird kid. I remember talking to the other kids on the block about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Timmy had dreams of being an architect like his dad. Greg thought that he would be a writer, maybe the 20th century Baudelaire. Buzz imagined himself the new Graham Kerr.

"Not me," I told them. "I want to own a utility company." "But why," they protested? "That sounds so dry. Voltages and widgets, what kind of fun is that?"

"Well, it's like this suckers. Capitalism 101. Privatize the profits and socialize all the debt. You get yourself a sweet monopoly and if people want the juice, what the hell are they going to do?""There can't be competition, you think they will allow fifteen different sets of power poles, all from different ownership, in a single neighborhood? Not a chance. And you get a Public Utilities Commission that pretty much rubber stamps every rate increase. You guys are going to be toiling away at your dead end muggle jobs while moi will be living quite large. So long suckers!"

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The wife went out in the yard to water the roses the other day only to find a strange man in the driveway. "Uh, what exactly are you doing on my property," she asks the guy? "I am here to change out your meter to a smart meter." he says. Lucky she was home. "No you are not. I have told you at least three times that I don't want one. Amscrae."

We have a little problem with the smart meters. We had one on our wind machine a few years ago and it started sparking, exploded and came close to starting a fire. No thank you.

A few days later I get a formish type letter in the mail from San Diego Gas and Electric. We have tried to reach you to no avail and sent you a certified letter (wrong). You haven't responded so now you are opting in for a smart meter. You are going to pay an extra seventy five bucks for the privilege. Have a nice day.Leslie got on the blower and gave them hell. I am hoping that they have called off their dogs but tend to doubt it. They told her that she will have to pay an extra five smackers a month to keep the old meter. With the old meter they can't cut your power off quite as easily if they decide that the town is consuming too much power.

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We got another letter the other day as I suppose the rest of you muggles did that SDGE is raising rates again big time, especially on inordinate power users. Guess they are feeling pinched, having made so many poor business and design decisions at San Onofre and with the last wave of fires. You can be sure who will pick up the bill for their incompetence. We will, we always do.

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I started looking at the bills for decommissioning the boobs, er San Onofre. Have to take the initial figures with a grain of salt, or maybe plutonium, as it is always at least three times higher than expected. Let's see, $3.4 billion dollars to take it off line. A $1.3 billion dollar customer refund. They need to recoup approx. $30 million a month that they had been incurring on the possible restart. The plant, south of Los Angeles, has been closed since January 2012, when a pipe ruptured and released radioactive steam.

Edison estimates that shareholders will absorb after-tax costs of $300 to $450 million, although further writedowns are possible, Chief Financial Officer Jim Scilacci said. The company hasn’t determined how much it will seek from customers, he said.

They want a $16 million dollar increase to cover reactor decommission costs, the fund is about $300 million short at present. They may recoup some money from the suppliers for the faulty pipes. The company has asked Mitsubishi for $139 million and $234 million from the insurer, according to a filing.

The PUC will be the final arbiter on who gets to pony up and how much customers will have to pay for the retirement of the reactors, which provided almost 20 percent of the power for Edison’s customers as well. SoCal Edison owns 78.21% of San Onofre, while Sempra Energy's (SRE) San Diego Gas & Electric utility holds 20% and the city of Riverside, Calif., holds the remaining 1.79%.

You know how things usually turn out. Both SDGE and Edison's stock price are way up.

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