State Sen. Scott Wiener has introduced a bill requiring investor-owned utility companies such as PG&E to hook up newly built residences within eight weeks of receiving permits.
The San Francisco Democrat’s SB 83 would make the utility compensate developers for failing to adhere to the deadline.
“Californians can’t afford to wait months or years to have new projects connected to the grid — especially during a housing crisis,” Wiener said in a news release.
“PG&E and other utilities have caused increasingly extreme delays because they’re unable to complete basic tasks in a timely manner. We need new homes yesterday, and these delays are increasing the cost of construction and preventing Californians from accessing urgently needed housing. SB 83 creates strong incentives to complete this work faster so Californians can access new housing as soon as possible.”
Wiener pointed to the state’s housing shortage as one of the reasons that more than eight million Californians live in poverty. He also said that “unnecessary delays” in the construction process are driving up home costs.
A PG&E spokesperson told The San Francisco Chronicle that preventing wildfires has “required significant financial and workforce resources. We do understand there are real-world impacts that delays have on our customers. We’re committed to making it right.”
Fresno City Hall Addresses Tardy PG&E Connections
In December, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer announced that the city would allow generators to provide the energy until power from PG&E is available.
Dyer, some members of the city council, and developers had complained about PG&E’s delays in powering up new developments.
For example, when a finished home can’t be supplied with power, the new homeowners sometimes lose the “lock-in” on their interest rates — potentially causing mortgage payments to go up.
In addition, when the timing of a family’s move is delayed, it forces them to extend their temporary living quarters and can impede their children’s transition into new schools.
PG&E Responsible for the Most Delays
While PG&E is not the only investor-owned utility lagging behind in energy hook-ups, as the state’s largest IOU, it is responsible for the most delays, Weiner’s office said.
According to Wiener’s office, 319 commercial and multi-family buildings were waiting for PG&E to turn on power last month. And, 134 buildings had been waiting more than two months. Another 95 had been waiting more than three months.
Southern California Edison, which services much of the Los Angeles metro area, had 17 commercial and multi-family projects waiting for more than one month for power hookups as of late February, according to Wiener’s office.
Wiener is a longtime PG&E watchdog. In 2020 he introduced a bill to turn PG&E into a publicly owned utility. The legislation failed to advance.
SB 83 is sponsored by the Construction Employers’ Association and the Housing Action Coalition. In addition, a coalition of labor unions and housing advocacy groups support the bill.
“When thousands of unhoused neighbors are suffering on our streets, it is unacceptable for an organization like PG&E to prevent low-income families and seniors from having access to high-quality, affordable housing and the essential resources they receive from Mission Housing,” said Sam Moss, executive director of Mission Housing.