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Official: SDG&E Customers Shouldn’t Pay for San Onofre During Shutdown

Edison, the plant's operator, is charging ratepayers about $54 million a month, letter says.

Customers of San Diego Gas & Electric shouldn’t have to pay for continued expenses incurred by the beleaguered , says one high-ranking official at the California Public Utilities Commission.

Joseph P. Como, head of the PUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates, sent a letter to the commissioners this week stating they should “remove [San Onofre] from Southern California Edison’s ... and San Diego Gas & Electric’s... rate base now instead of waiting several more months and allowing hundreds of millions of dollars in needless costs to be borne by customers.”

The Orange County Register on Tuesday reported

“Edison, the plant's operator, is charging ratepayers about $54 million per month for a nonproducing plant, the letter said. Edison holds 78 percent of the plant's ownership, SDG&E owns 20 percent, and Riverside 1.8 percent, the CPUC said.”

An investigation into whether it’s worth it to the ratepayers to keep the plant open would automatically trigger after nine months of nonoperation. That would be in November for Unit 3 and December for Unit 2.

But that section of the code “is not intended to be a free pass for utilities to earn a return on nonfunctioning hardware for nine months,” Como wrote. “The commission has a responsibility to act sooner when the facts before it demonstrate that a major part of a jurisdictional utility’s plant is out of service.”

The commission has twice postponed voting on whether to start such an early investigation.

The San Onofre plant . The leak, though minor itself, revealed widespread wear in crucial heat exchanger tubes unprecedented in the industry.

The outage cost Southern California Edison

Edison officials want to restart Unit 2, were there were fewer worn-out tubes, at partial strength for a shorter-than-normal operating period.

Unit 3, were there was the most severe damage, has engineers scratching their heads about how to fix the problems.

Como in his letter referred to a 1982 decision against the nuclear plant operators to support his point.

“The commission followed its staff recommendation that SONGS 2 [Unit 2] should not be included in [the] rate base until it was in commercial operation,” Como writes. “The commission did not think it reasonable for ratepayers to bear the full cost of the plant without receiving commensurate benefits of generation and reliable service.”

Como says the California Supreme Court also upheld the part of the code that states the utility must be functioning to be included in the rate base, stating that a plant in question must be “used and useful.”

“It seems very obviously that a fundamental prerequisite for a power generator to be considered “used and useful” is that it actually be generating power,” Como writes. “SONGS does not meet this test.”

Southern California Edison officials said in a statement that they are aware of the letter and want to work with the commission.

“We are currently focused on our planning for the repairs of Unit 2, which we will submit to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as soon as plans are complete,” said San Onofre Chief Nuclear Officer Pete Dietrich in the Edison release. “We recognize that the extended outage has been a challenge for customers, and we will work with the commission to meet the regulatory framework as designed.”

See San Clemente Patch topic page for almost 400 news stories chronicling the last few years in the history of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

David B Secor August 16, 2012 at 07:20 PM
It is a primary goal of my campaign to represent the People of the new District-50 to see our district free from the stranglehold of SDG&E and its corporate co-conspirators. Whether it's Sunrise Powerlink the unneeded Quail Brush peaker plant above Mission Trails Park, the Gigantic Wind turbine projects destroying the back country, San Onofre, with the worst safety record of any nuclear plant IN THE NATION, SDG&E and its cartel have been an ever-growing cancer in this region. Brain-dead, or paid-off, politicians and regulators have betrayed the very persons they were sworn to protect. Perhaps it's just a misunderstanding. With the "Citizens United" decision, the politicians and regulators think taking care of these corporation "persons" is just the same as taking care of living persons - their constituents, for example. Especially since the corporation "persons" pay the politicians 3 times what the taxpayer "persons" do. Hey which "persons" would You focus on? I'd appreciate it if a knowledgable reader would post a blog explaining the straightforward process of maiking us independent of SDG&E regarding power generation through residential and business rooftop solar, parking cover solar, and increased energy efficiency (Germany is near 80% energy efficient, the USA is 37% energy efficient). Form an ACA, non-profit, ratepayer owned utility independent of SDG&E, where excess power sent to the grid is paid at the retail rate to homeowners and businesses.
David B Secor August 16, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Going residential/business/parking cover solar and increasing energy efficiency does many great things. It will, in time, free us from the highest electricity rates in the nation. We will not pay for San Onofre screw-ups $750 Million for foreign-made faulty generator systems) or other huge bills that should be paid by the corporation and shareholders. We would not be vulnerable to mass blackout due to fire, or a simple terrorist attack on one of the totally unprotected Sunrise Powerlink towers which would shut everyone down With individual solar installations we have vastly greater security from real or cyber attack. The Nuclear plant will never reopen due to its problems. That's good. They must decommision and remove it. At Fukushima Reactor 4 was shut down, as San Onofre reactors are now, and that reactor is causing as great or greater harm to Japan than the others. Being "shutdown" does not mean "safe" by any means. Ratepayers would own the new utility. Profits would be returned to the non-profit utility to reinvest or lower rates, instead of to SDG&E overpaid executives and corporate shareholders who, like financial vampires, only want to extract money, never invest it. Depending on how much your family, business, parking cover, produces and uses, you could MAKE MONEY selling excess energy to SDG&E. NO pollution. NO possibility of nuclear "accident." No more TOTAL CONTROL of energy generation in San Diego, Imperial Counties by this "person" SDG&E
Komfort August 16, 2012 at 08:08 PM
"What about peakers though? First, you can shrink the peaks (nerdspeak: “peak leveling”) by moving demand around (nerdspeak: “demand response“), either by persuading people to spread their consumption out by charging more during peak hours (nerdspeak: “variable pricing“), or by building appliances that can cut back automatically. Second —another species of peak leveling —there’s energy storage. Stored energy is dispatchable: you can send it where you need it when you need it. “Pumpspeicher” on the chart above is pumped storage,which today is one of the few cost-effective, large-scale storage technologies in common use, though others are coming online. There are also batteries, ultracapacitors, compressed air, flywheels, fuel cells,and the distributed storage represented by the growing electric car fleet. Storage solves all sorts of other problems too, but let’s not get distracted. Together, demand response and energy storage illuminate the path to 100 percent renewables, however distant that point may be. For the time being, though, you still need the third peaker solution: natural-gas plants. (Incidentally, that’s why I didn’t join in the “natural gas is dead” celebration after the Howarth study a few weeks ago. Natural gas isn’t a “bridge” for renewables; it is, for the time being, a crucial enabler. Losing natural gas would be a serious blow.)" http://grist.org/renewable-energy/2011-05-26-how-to-get-to-a-fully-renewable-power-
JC August 31, 2012 at 07:32 AM
We don't pay a farmer for no wheat. (OK-sometimes we do) We don't pay a barber for no haircuts. We don't pay a musician for no song. Well, I think you get my line of thought...WHY ARE WE PAYING THESE CORPORATIONS WHO OWN SAN ONOFRE FOR ZERO POWER GENERATION? Why have corporations been able to situate themselves out of range of financial risk, and ensure their constant profit? Wouldn't it be cool to be like them and get paid for producing nothing? Where do I sign up? Thank you, Joe Como, for advocating for the ratepayers/taxpayers who always end up footing the bill.

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