Western Riverside County electricity supplier shuts down after bankruptcy – press enterprise
Western Community Energy is withdrawing from the electricity business.
Following its bankruptcy filing last month, Western, a government agency responsible for providing electricity to 113,000 customers in six towns in western Riverside County, began the process of winding up operations and transferring clients to Southern California Edison.
The Western Community board of directors voted on June 9 to file an “opt-out” request with the California Public Utilities Commission. This means that Western, which serves Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Norco, Wildomar, Perris and Hemet, “is going out of business and will no longer serve clients,” said Terrie Prosper, who manages the commission’s media relations, in a statement. E-mail.
Western “will continue to operate to work with the legislature and member entities to secure funding for Covid defaults and potential rebate for customers who have fallen behind due to Covid, as well as to work with its creditors to settle their claims. debts, ”Western spokeswoman Elisa Laurel said via email on Monday, June 14.
After consulting with the commission and Edison, Western decided to opt out “because it became clear that WCE would not have sufficient financial resources to continue purchasing power for its customers until July,” a statement said. Western Press Release.
“In particular, WCE has been affected by the decision of power producers to terminate contracts for the supply of electricity during the summer months,” the statement said. “Without this energy, WCE has been forced to purchase power at market prices which fluctuate daily and are currently high due to anticipated demand as temperatures exceed 100 degrees over the next several weeks.”
The unsubscribe process is expected to take two weeks, according to the statement, which was released on Friday, June 11. Taxpayers in Western’s six towns automatically got their electricity from Western unless they opt out.
Opting out “is the best solution that ensures little or no impact to WCE customers, which is the top priority of WCE and SCE,” Eastvale City Council member Todd Rigby, chairman of the Board of Directors, said in the statement. Western Board of Directors.
“We are working closely with SCE on an orderly and efficient transfer, and both organizations are committed to ensuring that there will be minimal impacts and no downtime for customers.”
In a telephone interview, Edison spokesperson Diane Castro said the utility was working with Western to “ensure that any impact on customers during the transition is minimized.”
Western, which began in 2016 with the goal of using cities’ bargaining power to ensure cheaper electricity for residents, filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in federal court after a council vote. administration on May 24. The agency owes at least $ 27 million to its creditors, including $ 12 million to Edison.
Officials blamed bankruptcy on a perfect storm of events, with the coronavirus pandemic leading to a moratorium on power cuts for non-paying customers – defaults were on average 10 times higher than industry standards in 2020, according to Western – to higher than expected demand for electricity due to a heat wave in August and the inability to use pandemic relief funds to replenish the country’s finances. agency.
From the start, Western has insisted that customers will not see any disruption in service. Last month, Laurel warned that the average Western taxpayer could see their bill increase between $ 5 and $ 10 per month.
These increases were expected after the bankruptcy filing and will no longer occur, Laurel said via email Monday.
According to Western, Edison has the right to recoup “re-entry” costs to offset administrative, energy and other costs associated with supporting Western customers.
If Western does not pay the re-entry fees on time, Edison could recover them from customers, the statement said, adding that the fee amounts are still being determined.
Western customers will revert to “standard bundled tariffs” under Edison, which has traditionally processed the agency’s bills for electricity use, according to Western’s press release.
Laurel said that Edison’s and Western’s rates “are generally only several percentage points apart. Once customers return to (Edison), their overall electricity bill should be the same or potentially less than what they paid (Western).