PG&E gets backlash over power connection delays in Fresno, Calif.

In this file photo, a fleet of PG&E utility vehicles awaiting assignment to the work area. A shortage of new transformers and workers has caused long delays in connecting new housing blocks and other construction projects to the grid in the Fresno area and elsewhere in the state, utilities accuse. doing.

Associated Press

Home builders, contractors and elected officials in the Fresno area and throughout the country Pacific Gas and Electricservice areas are frustrated by utility companies’ long delays in connecting new homes, subdivisions and construction projects to the grid.

The concerns are reportedly related to a shortage of transformers needed to power new areas. Additionally, there is a shortage of workers and third-party contractors that PG&E uses to install these transformers and connect new homes and other buildings to electrical service.

Issues involving delays of more than five months have prompted Fresno city leaders to: See our wide selection of electricityThis includes the possibility of forming your own utility districts to avoid reliance on PG&E.

The issue is scheduled to be taken up at the Fresno City Council next week.

President and CEO Mike Prandini Building Contractors Association of Fresno and Madera Countieshis colleagues in other parts of the state say the problem affects a wide area, including much of the Central Coast and Northern California, in addition to the central San Joaquin Valley.

“PG&E says there is a global shortage of transformers,” Prandini says. Builders in other California utility areas, such as Southern California Edison, have also “experienced some delays, but not as much as PG&E.”

Prandini told The Fresno Bee on Friday that it’s “creating serious problems for builders,” and that developers typically build new homes by the time PG&E estimates they can deliver transformers to subdivisions. I explained that I was estimating the schedule.

“But about three weeks ago, PG&E instructed builders to add 150 days to the previous schedule,” he said. “This is a problem because customers are already leaving payments and deposits at home with well-meaning money.”

“Then the house is ready to move in, but we can’t close the escrow because there’s no power,” Prandini told The Bee. I used to do it, but I’ve already sold the house and sometimes put the apartment on notice, but now I have to wait for the house to close escrow.”

Delays can push homebuyers’ schedules beyond the dates they might have been locked in at low interest rates, forcing them to reapply for new loans at higher interest rates. Payments will be significantly higher at 7% interest than at 4%,” Prandini said.

PG&E has also recently canceled contracts with third-party workers who handle installing transformers, pulling wires into homes and connecting homes to the grid, due to budgetary concerns, contractors said. said Prandini. “They say they’re going to bring them back, but haven’t confirmed that,” he added.

A PG&E official said the combination of high demand for new services and a shortage of transformers is straining utility capacity.

PG&E spokesperson Denny Boyles told The Bee in an email Friday night that “demand for new gas and electric service connections is currently outstripping projected demand.” There will be fewer resources available to meet the demand, and it will be more costly.”

Transformer supplies are “out of PG&E’s control,” he added. “These factors are impacting our ability to execute project schedules within normal timelines.”

Impact on available inventory

In Fresno, the issue has affected the city’s efforts to increase the inventory of housing available to residents, including affordable housing projects for low-income families and other types of projects.

Mayor Jerry Dyer said in a statement Friday that “PG&E’s failure to revitalize local building projects is hurting city homebuyers, taxpayers, business owners and the economy as a whole.” rice field. “The city feels it has no choice but to explore options such as forming districts to supply electricity to residents and businesses.”

City Councilman Garry Bredefeld pointed to PG&E’s impact on the city’s focus on increasing the inventory of available housing. “Their inability to electrify the new housing development essentially put a moratorium on the city of Fresno,” Bredefeld said.

“They have caused Fresno tremendous economic damage.

Dyer and Bredefeld joined Alderman Tyler Maxwell at a press conference on Monday, saying: Congressman Jim Patterson, R-Fresnoand Carol Goldsmith, Principal of the State Center Community College School District, discuss your options.

“With the ever-growing list of roadblocks to future housing developers, it’s time for our city to seriously consider concrete policies that can help reduce bureaucracy,” Mayor Maxwell said in a statement. “If we want more housing opportunities for families in Fresno, something has to change.”

For Fresno City College and the State Center Community College District, which operates community colleges in Clovis, Reedley and Madera Counties, the delay will affect progress and other improvement projects, including the opening of the new West Fresno Center next year. , said Patterson. Said.

Agricultural projects are also facing delays, Patterson told The Bee on Friday. there is,” he said. “The accumulation of these projects that need electrification spans all kinds of segments of our community.”

Near Sanger, general manager of a new citrus packaging plant, was told by PG&E that the power company would be out of service for two to three years because the substation needed to be upgraded.

“They are denying the connections that will energize us until 2024 or 2025,” said Colby Campbell, general manager of Cobblestone Fruit.

The company has already invested heavily in all-battery powered forklifts, as well as custom sorting and packing machines that require a lot of power.

“We are going to have a lot of advanced equipment in our packing facility. We want to be the flagship of the future,” said Campbell.

The company applied for service to PG&E in January. Now, ten months later, he said he feels like he’s hit a brick wall.

Campbell said in addition to waiting two years to upgrade substations in the Sanger area, PG&E said it would take 18 to 24 months to manufacture the circuit panels before the packaging plants could supply power. I’m here. These delays, coupled with investments in equipment, are adding to the frustration.

“Every day we are not moving forward,” Campbell said. She “feels like I’m punting the ball.”

Campbell said Cobblestone isn’t sitting idle and plans to lease two 2,000-kilowatt diesel-fueled generators to run the business.

Each generator consumes 92 gallons of fuel per hour to charge new battery-powered forklifts and other equipment.

Between leasing two semi-trailer sized generators and fuel for the October-June packing season, Campbell will cover costs of $600 a year while waiting for PG&E to provide power to the plant. Estimated at $10,000.

“What has surprised me over the last two months is the number of times the lights don’t turn on, and they won’t turn on for long periods of time,” Patterson said. Vice Chairman of the State Legislative Utilities and Energy Commission“This is a fundamental obstacle to the improvement that electrification means for our city and our region.”

PG&E spokeswoman Boyles said the utility company is trying to mitigate the impact of the problem on customers.

“We understand that delays can be frustrating,” he said.

Patterson said he has heard from various industry sectors that PG&E has consistently rejected developers’ offers to hire third-party contractors to purchase transformers that meet utility specifications. rice field.

Patterson said he supports Fresno’s plan to explore alternatives, but he also intends to encourage city leaders to include PG&E in their investigations. I think it’s a wise approach not to assume the inevitable outcome of that,” he said.

“But the city needs to get involved with PG&E. PG&E will very likely look to have willing partners who have the resources to hire these teams, get the projects done, and get other people involved. We can provide PG&E with the resources we need for our needs.”

This story was originally published October 28, 2022 at 4:40 PM.

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Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has been a reporter and editor in the area since 1986 and has been in Fresno Bee since 1998. He is now Zabby’s data his reporter, also covering high-speed rail projects in California and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, holds a journalism degree from Fresno State University, and a master’s degree in Leadership Studies from the University of the Pacific in Fresno.
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