Expect your electricity bills to be a little lower next year

dsneed@thetribunenews.comMarch 21, 2013 

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Starting next year, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers could see a modest decrease in their electricity bills as a result of a $266 million settlement received from the federal government.

The utility received the payment from the U.S. Department of Energy in November after prevailing in a lawsuit. PG&E filed the suit over the agency’s failure to open a national repository for the storage of high-level nuclear waste.

The savings will vary from customer to customer, but if PG&E's plan is approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, the average household in San Luis Obispo could pay 46 cents less a month, or $5.57 a year, from 2014 through 2016, said Blair Jones, PG&E spokesman.

Like all nuclear utilities, PG&E pays a per-kilowatt-hour fee into the federal Nuclear Waste Fund to cover the cost of storing highly radioactive used reactor fuel assemblies at a centralized location. However, the federal government missed its deadline to begin taking spent fuel by 1998, and a planned national storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was canceled.

As a result, all of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s spent fuel is stored onsite, most of it in pools, but some of it in large above-ground dry cask storage containers. The utility also stores a small amount of fuel in casks at its defunct Humboldt Bay plant in Northern California.

PG&E joined other nuclear utilities in suing the federal government to recover the costs associated with storing fuel onsite that should have been sent to a national repository.

PG&E’s settlement totaled $266 million and covers the period from 1998 through 2010, Jones said. After litigation costs, the amount returned to ratepayers will be just under $250 million.

With the cancellation of Yucca Mountain, the Department of Energy embarked upon a process of finding one or more new locations for storing fuel. That process is expected to take decades to complete.

A claims process has been set up for utilities to recover fuel-storage costs incurred from 2011 through 2013, Jones said. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s lobbying group, utilities pay $750 million annually into the Nuclear Waste Fund, which contained an unspent balance of more than $26 billion as of 2012.



A rebate for PG&E customers

What: PG&E customers will save 46 cents per month, or $5.57 a year

When: Rebates will be given from 2014 through 2016

Why: Rebate program was created after PG&E prevailed in a lawsuit against the federal government over nuclear waste storage

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service