Nevada County explores energy independence at NID workshop | TheUnion.com

Nevada County explores energy independence at NID workshop

John Orona
Staff Writer

Listen to Tuesday’s meeting here

Nevada County residents haven taken the first steps on an uncharted journey toward energy independence.

Hundreds of Nevada County residents outraged and powerless in the wake of consecutive PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs packed the Nevada Irrigation District’s business office Tuesday to discuss potential long-term solutions to the ongoing power crisis.

According to the water district, the community workshop was spurred by a chorus of local voices calling for an alternative solution that would ensure citizens have a sustainable and safe power supply.

The district has been exploring the possibility of purchasing PG&E power distribution assets since August 2018.

Concerned citizens filled the district boardroom, the lobby and the designated overflow room to ask questions of water district officials in attendance and offer recommendations for the solutions they want to see take shape. While many had concerns about cost-benefit analyses and the mechanics of what a potential purchase of PG&E infrastructure would mean for their rates and power continuity, nearly everyone was in broad agreement for moving beyond PG&E and interested in self sufficiency.

“The community is clearly focused, they recognize the problem and are ready to move forward,” NID General Manager Rem Scherzinger said. “We have a populace that’s focused on a solution, with that NID can align its staff and we can try to enact the will of the people.”

Scherzinger said the next steps in the process are for the Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission to review whether NID has the ability to run the electric utility with consideration to financial viability and risk assessment.

“LAFCo will run us through a series of feasibilites to make sure we’re capable of delivering the service,” Scherzinger said. “If they feel that’s the case, we’ll move to the next step and if we don’t clear that hurdle then we’ll find another solution to go forward.”

Next steps

The NID board would then review their package to potentially submit as a proposal to PG&E to purchase their electricity distribution business in Nevada County. The district said they are not interested in the natural gas portion of PG&E’s operations.

During the meeting, NID made the case for why a local, nonprofit utility would be advantageous for Nevada County. According to NID officials, customers of nonprofit utility companies see their power shut off around half as often as customers of investor-owned utility companies while averaging 13% in rate savings.

According to Scherzinger, the proposal NID is working on would create a fourth business line — nonprofit power distribution — on top of its water, recreation and generation operations. NID officials said the majority of PG&E’s service territory is already within NID’s existing service boundary, and that water boundaries would remain unchanged.

While municipalities like San Francisco and Yolo County have already unsuccessfully tried to purchase parts of PG&E, Scherzinger didn’t rule out the use of eminent domain, which he said is an available option for the district.

Several community members implored NID to create a citizen’s advisory board for the issue going forward, and NID officials said they would continue hosting public events as the idea continues forward.

According to Scherzinger, NID staff will incorporate suggestions and continue fielding recommendations and questions at the email they’ve set up specifically for the district’s exploration of a power distribution: power4people@nidwater.com.

People can listen to Tuesday’s workshop at https://nidwater.com/2019/10/october-29-2019-workshop-to-discuss-local-power-future.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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