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PG&E wants you to pay for them to profit from chargers
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PG&E wants the state to give them permission to take money from you so they can make even more money.

The for-profit utility that paid no federal taxes on $4.85 billion in profits from 2008 to 2010 while enjoying more than $1 billion in tax credits submitted plans with its corporate tin cup extended weeks ago to the California Public Utilities Commission.

They want their 5.1 million electricity customers to foot the bill so they can install 25,000 charging stations for electric cars. The bill comes to $635 million or an average of $124.50 per customer.

PG&E says it is all part of their goal to help Gov. Jerry Brown attain his goal of having 1.5 million zero emission vehicles in California by 2025.

Gee, how civic minded of the suits in San Francisco.

Not only do they want to make money off selling electricity to charge cars but they don't want to pay for the charging stations to do so. It is kind of like Chevron charging their gas credit cardholders $635 million so they can open new gas stations to sell them gas.

PG&E netted $830 million in profits in 2011, $858 million in 2012, and $1.1 billion in 2013. If they just cut into their profits by $212 million a year they can make what is essentially a capital investment in just three years so they can make even more money and profits down the road.

But PG&E doesn't see the world that way. They are the ultimate corporate welfare company. They are propped up by a state guarantee that they will pocket at least 11.45 percent in profit no matter how bad the economy is or how poorly they run the utility.

That's only half of it.

Buyers of plug-in electric cars typically pay $7,000 plus more than the hybrid version of the same car. All electric cars are even more expensive such as the Tesla that starts at $71,000.

The people buying plug-in electrics aren't exactly poor.

They are also already getting tax credits. Between state and federal tax credits California buyers of certain models can have $10,000 taken directly off their income tax liability.

Now for the fun part: There are at least three "true" private companies that are not quasi-public and propped up with guaranteed profits like PG&E that offer chains of charging stations in California plus an array of independent site-specific location vendors as well as government charging stations. The Tesla fast charging station going in at Orchard Valley along the 120 Bypass doesn't fall into that category since Tesla so far has pocketed tax credits and tax breaks in excess of $2 billion.

So far those three privately funded concerns have put in place almost all of the 1,991 charging stations in California. They charge a modest fee for each use plus electricity. That modest fee helps them get back their investment and eventually make a profit.

PG&E per usual wants ratepayers to take all risk away from them so they can do the usual such as buying corporate jets while California goes through rolling blackouts and dish out $12 million in bonuses to the executive suite when they're teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

Ratepayers would instantly make PG&E the proverbial 900-pound gorilla when it comes to charging stations. And instead of being controlled by market forces, once PG&E essentially owns the car charging market within its territory they can charge whatever they like for the access fee plus electricity.

True the CPUC may make them justify rate hikes for charger access but given the lapdog agency's track record rest assured PG&E will be able to milk the arrangement for all its worth to jack up hidden profits at the expense of electric vehicle drivers.

The sweet part for PG&E is they can make a preemptive strike against truly private sector enterprises. After all, the competition has to raise capital while PG&E simply milks it 5.1 million hostages - they call them customers - for the money needed to purchase and install 25,000 charging stations.

Unlike the three private vehicle battery charging networks, PG&E can use eminent domain to place the chargers where they can make the most money whether it is apartment complexes, retail companies or workplaces.

And - as an added bonus - PG&E can use their "stealth power pole ploy" to milk ratepayers for even more money. Much like the 10,000 power poles PG&E got a rate increase to put in place and then failed to do so and then asked for another rate hike to cover the cost of actually installing them. PG&E can do the same thing with charging stations. Who is to be wiser until long afterwards if PG&E fails to put in place a couple thousand charging stations and instead pockets the money from ratepayers as pure profit?

It's not like they will get in trouble for failing to install all 25,000 charging stations. They'd just go back to the CPUC as they usually do and ask for even more money from the ratepayers to do the work they were already supposed to have done.

Make no mistake about it. PG&E's request before the CPUC has nothing to do with civic duty. It's all about feeding PG&E's insatiable greed

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.


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