California’s major monopoly utilities asked regulators Monday to approve higher profits for their shareholders amid a growing risk of destructive fires. The biggest request came from Southern California Edison, where the average household customers could see an annual bill increase of more than $170.
In separate filings to the California Public Utilities Commission, officials for the three companies said a larger return on equity for their shareholders is necessary to keep attracting investment. Without the lure of higher profits to balance out the financial threat posed by wildfires, company officials argued, they’ll have trouble securing funding for infrastructure projects that support fire safety and renewable energy.
San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January after its electrical equipment was linked to a series of deadly fires, asked the commission to raise shareholder returns to 16% from the current 10.25%. The company estimated its request would cause a monthly bill increase of $7.85 for an average residential electricity customer and $4.25 for an average residential gas customer.
Southern California Edison sought an even bigger number, asking the commission to increase shareholder returns to 16.6% from 10.3%, with fire risks accounting for most of the increase. The utility estimated the impact at $12.20 monthly for an average residential customer.
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