(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) – A utility struggling with financial pressure due to speculation that its equipment might have caused a deadly North Carolina fire, last month requested US energy regulators to approve monthly monthly client accounts in order to consolidate their system before forest fires and provide substantial quantities of profits to shareholders.
In the October stake with the Federal Regulatory Commission for Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. presented a number of dangers faced by its portable water through North California and said that its system was facing a greater fire risk than any other benefit.
"The consequences of PG & E's exposure to potential forest-related commitments have been dramatically increased," the investor said. "In order to overcome the negative financial impact of any damage likely to be attributed to PG & E, it will require a continued commitment of capital to investors."
PG & E, which is one of San Francisco's largest state-run power stations serving most of northern and central California, made the request a month before the Camp Fire eruption on November 8 and a rapid whirlwind into the deadliest US fire in the century. No cause was determined, and speculation focused on PG & E, which reported a breakdown around when and where the fire started.
The company lost $ 15 billion of market value, its shares fell 60 percent in the week.
Last year PG & E was facing financial pressure due to its alleged role in a series of deadly fires in the Californian wine country. The company said in the past month that revenue should be increased in order to prevent investors from fleeing, namely that its credit rating was downgraded and that its shares fell after 2017.
The fire threatens PG & E's ability to attract and maintain the investment needed to support its system and meet California's clean energy objectives, said Lynsey Paulo spokeswoman.
"The PG & E electrical system is not resistant to the impact of increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions," said Paulo.
Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of California Michael Picker tried to calm the financial markets late on Thursday with a statement that "an essential element of providing secure electrical services is financial resources to implement security measures." But he added to expand the investigation into the security culture of PG & E to look at "corporate governance, structure and operation of the company".
PG & E shares resumed trading after trading, losing Thursday again but remained far below their value when the fire broke out.
The company said that in the requirement for speeds, the extreme fire risk justified a higher profit than the average benefit that can be earned. It lists commercial legal branches in California that are entirely responsible for the damage caused by their equipment, regardless of whether the company was negligent.
A state law that was approved this year makes it easier for the company to raise the price for the payment of lawsuits, but the company still believes that it still faces a high risk and no relief for fires started this year.
A significant drop in the price of shares shows that investors consider not only fires, but also the danger of future fire fires for which utility might be responsible, analysts say.
"PG & E will be very difficult to fund its needs in a short time, so we think that regulators need to step in and place some reliability on the market," said Travis Miller, a Morningstar strategist.
PG & E is asking for a 9.5% increase in transmission costs – the cost of high-voltage lines that move power over long distances. This is about $ 1.50 per month for average housing, said Paulo.
Supporters of utility customers pointed to PG & E's claim that the price of forest fires should be increased. They say that its problems are due to bad management decisions.
"We do not pay electricity bills in order to prevent PG and E from our own negligence and incompetence, and we can not afford this," said Mindy Spatt, Director of Communication for the Reform of Public Utilities.
PG & E reported this week to the Securities and Exchange Commission to extend the cover for forest fires to approximately $ 1.4 billion for the year covering this fire season. But analyst at Citi Investment Research estimates that damage could exceed $ 15 billion. And the company's potential liability for last year's fires is tied to $ 10 billion.
Some analysts believe that PG & E can survive financially until there is even greater disaster. But forest fires are becoming more and more deadlier and more devastating, as housing is pushed into rural areas and becomes the norm of drought and high temperatures associated with climate change.
"The company does not deserve enough money to pay in any way," said Michael Wara, director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at Stanford University. "They must be extreme, events once a generation."
The ability of PG & E to raise capital will be limited, and it is likely to be forced to cut costs, such as replacing aging equipment, analysts said. California public utilities should also invest in a series of upgrades that will allow the country to meet its aggressive targets for renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions.
Fire detectives blamed PG & E equipment for 12 flax fires, including two that killed 15 people together. In eight of these fires, investigators said that they found evidence of violations of state law and forwarded the results to prosecutors.
The company is facing numerous lawsuits by insurers and persons who lost their homes last year. The lawsuit then praises PG & E for the latest fire and accuses the company of failing to effectively maintain power lines.
California regulators generally allow companies to transfer the costs of these actions to their customers, but only if the company can show that it has carefully managed its equipment. New national legislation makes it easier for utility companies to count on customers if they can show that the fire has deteriorated from things that are not under their control, such as bad weather. But the legislators have not dropped a standard that places all responsibility for the benefit, which is unique to the two countries.
"Extremely large-scale casualty fees faced by communal services in California are very unusual in other countries," said Hugh Wynne of Sectors and Sovereign Research, an investment research firm.