Senator Wiener Introduces Legislation To Tackle Delays from PG&E and Other Utilities In Connecting New Construction to the Grid
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10th, 2023
Contact: Erik Mebust, email@example.com, (916)-995-0692
SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 83, legislation to resolve delays on grid interconnections for new and existing construction. SB 83 will help get new housing and other critical priorities online faster, by imposing an eight week timeline for investor-owned utilities (IOUs) like PG&E to complete interconnection work after receiving the necessary permits, and requiring that they pay financial compensation to the project applicant if they fail to meet that timeline.
“Californians can’t afford to wait months or years to have new projects connected to the grid - especially during a housing crisis,” said Senator Wiener. “PG&E and other utilities have caused increasingly extreme delays because they’re unable to complete basic tasks in a timely manner. We need new homes yesterday, and these delays are increasing the cost of construction and preventing Californians from accessing urgently needed housing. SB 83 creates strong incentives to complete this work faster so Californians can access new housing as soon as possible.”
California’s housing shortage has left millions of people teetering on the verge of economic ruin. When housing costs are taken into account, California ranks first in the nation for its poverty rate - 20.4% of California residents (more than 8 million people) live beneath the California Budget Center’s supplemental poverty measure.
Unnecessary delays in the construction process are a key factor driving up costs. The Legislature has taken steps in recent years to reign in California’s unusually long entitlement and post entitlement approvals processes (SB 35, Wiener, 2017; AB 2011, Wicks, 2022, AB 2234, R. Rivas, 2022), but far more work remains if the state is to meet its goal of producing over 2 million new units of housing in the next 8 years.
Utility interconnections fall into the post entitlement phase of construction. After projects receive project approvals from local officials, IOUs must work with local governments and project applicants on building plan review and commenting on local permit applications. IOUs also must evaluate requests to provide temporary power to a site, turn off power to a site (known as de-energization), and physically connect new and existing construction to the energy grid (known as interconnection) to turn on power to a site.
IOUs also then help complete the physical work associated with many of these tasks. And recent data shows that they have been slow to complete these tasks for new and existing residential, commercial, industrial. As of February 2023, there were 134 construction-ready projects — representing hundreds of units of housing and other critical priorities — awaiting final energization for longer than 8 weeks by the state’s largest IOU, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). Of these projects, 95 had been waiting more than 12 weeks. Some affordable housing projects have been kept waiting for more than 18 months for interconnection.
While PG&E is not the only IOU to face delays in their post entitlement phase duties, as the state’s largest IOU they are responsible for the most delays.
SB 83 will eliminate these harmful and unnecessary interconnection delays, lowering project costs and creating standardized timelines that will bring much needed predictability to the construction process.
SB 83 requires IOUs to complete interconnection work within 8 weeks of notification by the project applicant of a completed project being certified for interconnection, or “green tagged” by local officials. If an IOU fails to meet the timeline, the bill requires that they pay a penalty to the project applicant.
SB 83 is sponsored by the Construction Employers’ Association and the Housing Action Coalition. SB 83 is also supported by a coalition of labor unions, including the California Conference of Carpenters, International Union of Operating Engineers, California State Council of Laborers, and California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, and housing advocacy organizations, including the San Diego Housing Federation.
"When thousands of unhoused neighbors are suffering on our streets, it is unacceptable for an organization like PG&E to prevent low-income families and seniors from having access to high-quality, affordable housing and the essential resources they receive from Mission Housing." - Sam Moss, Executive Director, Mission Housing
"In a state where it already takes far too long – and costs far too much – to build critically-needed new homes, further delays caused by excessive wait times for utility connections are making our already-severe housing shortage and affordability crisis even worse,” said Corey Smith, Housing Action Coalition Executive Director. “Home builders and residents alike cannot afford – and should not be forced – to wait even longer for their homes to be completed. HAC is proud to co-sponsor SB 83 with Senator Wiener to solve this long-standing problem with a simple solution: Establishing reasonable timeframes for Investor Owned Utility companies to complete their connections so that new homes can be made available for residents faster and with more certainty.”
“The last thing California’s construction industry needs is more delays getting projects online, and that’s exactly what the investor owned utilities are causing,” said Ron Rowlett, Political Director for the NorCal Carpenters Union. “We need reasonable and predictable timelines to get our work done - this bill delivers that, helping California reach its housing production and climate goals at the same time.”
“Lengthy delays in connecting power to affordable housing developments, new businesses and renewable energy infrastructure by Investor-Owned Utility companies continues to hurt new homeowners, the local economy and California’s ability to meet it greenhouse gas reduction goals,” said Vince Courtney, Assistant to Business Manager, Northern California District Council or Laborers.
“The Operating Engineers have long recognized the current housing crisis facing our state and impacting our membership,” said Matthew Cremins, Legislative Consultant for the International Union of Operating Engineers. “Our organization has consistently sought to be part of the solution to solve this extremely important issue. SB 83 is a thoughtful proposal will result in substantially more available housing and ultimately lead to more affordable housing that could be utilized by our membership and those in need.”
“Over the past several years, Construction Employers’ Association members, which include many of the largest union-signatory commercial and industrial building contractors in the state, have experienced increasing delays having their completed projects interconnected to the grid in Northern California,” said Scott Govenar, Lobbyist for the Construction Employers’ Association. “What has historically taken six to eight weeks to interconnect, now takes between 20 to 28 weeks, during which time buildings remain shuttered to potential residents and businesses.”