Newsom Says Takeover of Utility Still in Play

Published On: February 3, 2020

At the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) conference on January 29, 2020, Governor Newsom again reiterated his threat for a State takeover of PG&E if the bankrupt utility falls short in the changes he wants.

Newsom said his administration has proposed what he called “detailed terms” on what a takeover would look like and is working on it with legislative leaders in case it’s needed, adding that the bankruptcy of PG&E was a “tremendous opportunity” and a “godsend.”

Newsom is insisting that a “new” PG&E has to be a “… completely re-imagined, completely transformed company. If PG&E can’t do it, we’ll do it for them.”

Notwithstanding the threat, the governor thought the utility was making progress. He stated that his administration is meeting with PG&E on a daily basis. “We are making progress on governance,” he said. “We are making progress on finance.”

If a deal can’t be reached within the next few weeks, Newsom told reporters that he will lay out a detailed plan for a takeover.

At the PPIC conference, Newsom expressed that he has no interest in the existing management or board. He also wants executive pay to be tied to safety, and at least half of the governing board to be California residents. He also expects the utility to be reliable and provide green energy.

“There’s going to be a new company or the State of California will take it over,” Newsom said.

At the U.S. Bankruptcy Court hearing on January 29, PG&E attorney Stephen Karotkin told Judge Dennis Montali that PG&E is “well aware” of the concerns raised by Newsom, and that he believed they would “be able to resolve those concerns.”

Championing Newsom’s idea of a State-driven change to PG&E, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is urging that the utility convert the current ownership model to a customer-owned co-op, an idea that is gathering support. There is a rumor that we may see legislation introduced in the very near future on this option.

PG&E faces a deadline of June, 2020, to emerge from bankruptcy in order to avail itself of a state fund established for future wildfires under AB 1054.

Watch the governor’s hour-long appearance below:

Source: Public Policy Institute of California

About the Author: Jesus Arredondo

Jesus Arredondo is an Energy Industry Analyst and former State of California official. He can be reached at jesus at