Should We Ban Privately Owned Utility Cos.?

Oct 2019
657
216
Earth
Given the unprecedented disaster in California, should private ownership of utility companies be banned?

I believe California is in the perfect position to act as a cautionary tale for any group who would abuse their position as a natural monopoly (as in it makes no sense for competition for there to be various competing utilities).

PG&E MUST be in violation of a range of laws and standards in their maintenance obligations. It was last year only that that entire town was wiped off the map due to the failure of the utility to protect their infrastructure.

If we take a few of the heads of those companies and find them legally and fiscally culpable for the damage caused by their actions/inactions, that would be a great motivator to the rest of the country that their monopoly status comes with a responsibility and an obligation for safety.

It would also serve to show the people that the country still values a rule of law, watching one of those suits facing a life in prison and their wealth given to the families of those harmed.
 
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May 2016
4,341
1,179
california
They replaced the last bunch of CEOs at PGE last year, refused PGE bankruptcy, wouldn't let them sell their windmills, and assigned the public utilities commission to watchdog them. Thats where the power shutoffs came from last year. So the government has been running the utility in effect, from above.
 
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May 2016
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california
I just heard the govs talk about the statewide fire emergency. He thanked the Trump adminstration for moving quickly to help... I couldn't believe my ears.
 
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Nov 2016
10,126
10,123
USA
The only utility infrastructure issues I’ve experienced have had to do with “acts of God” such as power loss during a hurricane. Those were inconvenient but understandable.

What is not understandable is dealing with their bureaucracy. Recently, my brother, who has power of attorney for an aging mom with memory issues, tried to assume responsibility for her electric and gas bill. It turned out to be a major hassle, needlessly so, IMO. They did NOT make it easy or convenient, even though my brother had the documentation to prove that he had legal authority to do what he wanted to do.
 
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Jun 2014
64,258
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Cleveland, Ohio
Cost is one factor, obviously. But the other is safety and reliability. I don't believe a for-profit, privately owned utility will capture safety innovations because they may not be profitable.

IDK what the answer is for California. I read that burying the lines underground will cost millions per mile. If this is true, maybe they need to encourage the proliferation of solar & wind, along with the batteries to power a structure almost independently of the utility?
 
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boontito

Future Staff
Jan 2008
109,164
101,942
Most Insidious
I'm not sure. Just hope they'll keep buying the excess power we have here in the PNW. Helps keep our public produced power rates l-o-w.
 
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Blueneck

Former Staff
Jun 2007
56,175
44,348
Ohio
They replaced the last bunch of CEOs at PGE last year, refused PGE bankruptcy, wouldn't let them sell their windmills, and assigned the public utilities commission to watchdog them. Thats where the power shutoffs came from last year. So the government has been running the utility in effect, from above.
Have the windmills blown up and started fires that killed a bunch of people?
 
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Rasselas

Moderator
Feb 2010
72,596
50,289
USA
Given the unprecedented disaster in California, should private ownership of utility companies be banned?

Funny thing, that question. I live in a place with an irrigation district--basically a public utility that manages both electricity and water in rural areas. A few years ago there was a referendum to make it more difficult for localities to establish their own utilities--it failed badly. And when I look at a map of California, with all the places where blackouts might occur marked, I'm in this big white space in the middle where PG&E DOESN'T provide the electrical power.

I really don't know what people in far-flung, beautifully forested land are going to do. I hear it's $3 million/mile to retool power lines so they won't cause fires when it's windy. If the people who actually benefit from that power actually have to pay the costs, that may depopulate a lot of smaller California communities.