California Wildfires, PG&E Bankruptcy, and the Promise of Solar Power

May 17, 2019
California Wildfires, PG&E Bankruptcy, and the Promise of Solar Power

Say what you want about Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and its behind the scenes operations. The utility company is remarkably consistent in some respects.

For example, the electricity it generates is:

  • Always dirty
  • Always expensive
  • Always going up in price

In fact, PG&E has been increasing their rates for years.

California Wildfires, PG&E Bankruptcy, and the Promise of Solar Power

PG&E generates the vast majority of its electricity from fossil fuel – an energy resource that is becoming harder and more expensive to extract. Moreover, inputs like oil, gas, and coal are harmful to humans – as evidenced by the 40,000+ Californians who are hospitalized for asthma every year.

Worse still, fossil fuel consumption is also terrible for the environment.

Case in point are the record-breaking wildfires that continue to plague California.

State investigators have already attributed more than 1,500 of these fires to faulty or poorly maintained powerlines installed by PG&E from 2014 to 2017. And one of the worst blazes of all was 2018’s “Camp Fire” inferno, which took 85 lives and caused $8.4 billion in property damage.

Not surprisingly, the utility company now faces billions in liability fines.

Even less surprising is PG&E’s decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

How PG&E’s Bankruptcy Will Affect Your Next Electricity Bill

In the wake of these bankruptcy filings, we’ve started receiving questions about how PG&E’s financial situation could impact electricity bills moving forward.

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t very encouraging.

Normally, when a company files for bankruptcy, it either:

  • Closes down shop permanently

          or

  • Gets broken up into smaller entities

If the company is large enough, it might even be taken over by the state of California.

As one of the largest investor-owned utilities in the country, PG&E is in a unique situation:

  • It’s owned by PG&E Corporation – a parent company with deep pockets
  • It’s also overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

So it’s unlikely that PG&E is going away anytime soon. The utility will still file for bankruptcy, but this is little more than legal wrangling designed to reduce the company’s liability.

Once the dust settles, PG&E will remain a major player in California’s energy mix – providing both electricity and gas to communities throughout the state. And although it’s still on the hook for billions in fines, PG&E will almost certainly pass on these penalties to consumers in the form of higher electricity prices for many years to come.

In fact, PG&E is legally allowed to do this in the result of a recently passed law. In 2018, the California state legislature passed Senate Bill 901 – a measure that specifically permits the utility provider to cover damages from the 2017 wildfires by raising its rates on customers.

If this happens, we’ll almost certainly be worse off than when we started. That’s because our state’s electricity grid will still be:

  • Dirty – with climate change helping to increase both the severity and frequency of future wildfires
  • Expensive – with grid prices guaranteed to keep trending upwards as the company pays off its fines

And yet, there’s a subset of Californians who aren’t as concerned about this rapidly changing landscape.

Why Solar Customers Aren’t Worried about PG&E’s Financial Woes

Rather than rely exclusively on dirty, expensive grid electricity, many homeowners and business owners throughout California now generate their own clean energy on-site – entirely from solar panels.

And below are just some of the main reasons why.

1. Solar Power Is Clean

For starters, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels don’t pollute. Instead, they convert free sunshine into clean energy – without emitting CO2 or other greenhouse gases.

2. Solar Power Is Affordable

Going solar is already cheaper than continued reliance on grid electricity (at today’s utility rates). So you begin saving money the moment you switch over.

Better still, your solar savings only grow with time as PG&E continues to raise its prices. For example, homeowners who go solar today with the $0 down option can lock in the current Tier 1 Rate electricity rate of $0.215 – with no price increases for the next 25 years.

Those who don’t install solar panels, however, will be forced to pay whatever PG&E demands in the future (even if those higher bills are primarily used to cover the company’s own losses).

3. Solar Power Is Independence

When you go solar, you’re no longer subject to the whims of a monopolistic utility provider. Instead, you’re able to generate your own clean power from equally clean (and free) sunshine.

What to do with that energy is entirely up to you:

  • When we help you enroll in California’s net metering program, you can share your solar electricity with others (and receive compensation).
  • We can install an Electric Vehicle charging station as part of your project, allowing you the convenience of charging at home WITH your clean solar power.

Either way, going solar puts you in the driver’s seat (while putting money in your pocket). And for most Californians, that kind of energy independence is priceless.

4. Solar Power Is Speech

If you’re not a fan of PG&E’s practices, you may be tempted to picket or march. And perhaps you should.

But nothing sends a more powerful message than opting out of their game.

When you go solar, you’re no longer fighting with words. You’re fighting with your wallet. And that’s something PG&E will be sure to notice.

Best of all, claiming the above benefits is more affordable than ever before.

Going Solar on a Budget You Can Afford

With industry-leading consultants, Bright Planet will help you determine the best options.  We offer a range of financing solutions that allow you to go solar for free – with $0 down and $0 due during the installation:

  • With our most popular option, the power purchase agreement (PPA), you pay a fixed rate for the clean electricity that your PV system generates
  • Our low-interest solar loans guarantee savings with a fixed monthly loan payment and you can pay down the loan balance using your monthly utility bill savings

Both financing approaches will ensure guaranteed monthly savings. Immediately.  And by reducing your reliance on grid electricity, you’ll also have a much smaller carbon footprint.

Calculate Your Savings

Protecting Yourself with Sunshine

Although it’s difficult to accept, PG&E’s decision is understandable. As a publicly traded enterprise, they have to do what’s best for their investors – even if this means increasing rates on long-time customers.

But as a homeowner or business owner, you also have a responsibility to look out for your own interests as well. And in a sunny state like California where grid power is becoming increasingly less affordable, this means going solar.

Installing PV panels on your home or business allows you to:

  • Save money the moment your system goes live
  • Protect yourself from future rate increases
  • Reduce your impact on the environment
  • Help make future wildfires less severe

Because YOU have the power to put yourself in control, request a custom solar quote from us today.

To compare solar financing options and see how much you can save, use our solar calculator below.

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Paul was very polite and thorough in explaining the benefits of putting solar on my house and what the different options were. He was prompt in responding to my follow up questions. He kept to the schedule and came to my house on the day of the roof inspection to help facilitate the process.
Patricia
,
Cupertino