Consumer advocate seeks rate reduction for California plant downtime

Consumer advocate seeks rate reduction for California plant downtime

The Public Utilities Commission's Division of Ratepayer Advocates is reportedly calling for Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to reduce ratepayer bills due to the ongoing downtime at the San Onofre nuclear plant.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the plant, which supplies power to the electric suppliers, has been shut down since January 31 after a tube in one of the plant's newly replaced steam generators started to leak a small quantity of radioactive steam. In addition, it was discovered that a number of other tubes were also wearing down at a faster rate than had been anticipated.

Despite this, customers are reportedly still paying for costs at the San Onofre plant, which includes maintenance and operations costs that total approximately $650 million per year, the news source said.

Joseph P. Como, the acting director of the ratepayer advocacy group, recently wrote a letter to the utilities commission seeking to immediately slash the bills for consumers, "instead of waiting several more months and allowing hundreds of millions of dollars in needless costs to be borne by the ratepayers," the Times reported.

In the call to action, the advocacy group is seeking to expedite the Public Utility Commission's current timeline, which would wait until November, when the plant will have been down for nine months. At that point, state law would require an investigation to determine if the commission should lower rates. Ultimately, ratepayers could even be refunded some of their money, according to the news source.

Como, however, wants to speed this process up, noting that Edison is charging its customers $54 million a month for operating costs for a plant that is not being used, the Times reported.

In late July, Edison international executives said that they still were not ready to begin taking the initial steps to bring the Onofre nuclear plant back online, according to Reuters. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission reportedly ruled that the damage at the plant was of such a serious nature that the utility needs approval to repair and restart the steam generations, the news source said.

Edison chief executive Ted Craver said at the time that there was no timeline for when the repair work would get underway.

"We will not be forecasting specific timelines for a confirmatory action letter submittal or potential start up dates," Craver said during a conference call with analysts. "As we have said many times, there is no timeline for safety, and to forecast dates is inconsistent with prudent decision making."

A strong predictive maintenance plan can help to curtail issues such as these, as aging tubes and other equipment can be quickly and more easily identified. Thoroughly assessing all aspects of an industrial plant and potential safety concerns can save significant amounts of time and money, while limiting plant downtime.

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