SACRAMENTO — Ratepayers of Southern California Edison Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. could be in line for a share of more than $1 billion in refunds as part of a possible financial settlement from the closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.
Both Edison and another party to the negotiations, the Utility Reform Network (TURN), a consumer advocacy group, confirmed that a settlement conference is scheduled Thursday at the San Francisco headquarters of the California Public Utilities Commission.
The 2,200-megawatt San Onofre plant, near San Clemente in San Diego County, was shut down in January 2012 when newly installed steam generators leaked a small amount of radioactivity. Edison, the plant’s majority owner, decided in June 2013 to permanently close and decommission the generating station.
Settlement of the refund issue would mark an important first step in what’s expected to be a lengthy process of decommissioning two reactors at San Onofre. Disputes already are occurring over who will pay for the demolition of the plant, its cleanup and the disposal and safekeeping of its spent nuclear fuel.
Edison argues that the ratepayers should share some of the projected cost, while consumer and environmental groups counter that most of the financial burden should remain with Edison’s shareholders.
Since then, TURN has argued for customer refunds to compensate for rate increases related to the failed re-powering of the now-defunct plant as well as the cost of buying replacement energy to run homes and businesses in southern Orange County and San Diego County.
The Public Utilities Commission, TURN argued in a press release, “must protect ratepayers from paying for the costs of a plant that stopped producing power in 2012.”
Although terms of the proposed settlement remain confidential until after next week’s conference, Edison in previous statements has indicated that customer refunds could top $1 billion.
In a June 7 conference call, Theodore F. Craver, chief executive of the utility’s parent company, Edison International, said potential refunds could be “roughly $1.3 billion.”
In a related regulatory action, the Public Utilities Commission announced that Southern California Edison has agreed to pay a $24.5-million penalty for safety violations connected to a 2011 windstorm that cut power to 400,000 customers and was linked to the electrocution of three family members.
A PUC investigation concluded that the utility did not maintain poles and other equipment. According to the commission, Edison doesn’t dispute that some of the alleged safety violations occurred, and the company is supporting the proposed settlement.
The incident occurred Nov. 30, 2011, when Santa Ana winds of close to 100 miles per hour played havoc with the transmission and distribution system.
The proposed penalty will be considered by the PUC’s five commissioners sometime after May. The penalties would be paid by Edison’s shareholders and not its customers.