Quarterly Trends Report

PG&E’s Bankruptcy, the Californian Wildfires and the Future of the Company

  • Credit
  • Energy
  • North America

The utilities sector, specifically the investor-owned PG&E, has been a key area of focus for Third Bridge Forum’s Interviews throughout Q1 2019. Third Bridge conducted more than 40 interviews on the electric, gas, water and renewable energy industries, offering insights from senior specialists operating in North America, India and China.

After PG&E filed for bankruptcy as a result of the Californian wildfires, the company’s future has been called into question, with a former COO at Edison Energy LLC suggesting that a “key part of that strategy” could be to use “asset sales… [to] break up PG&E.” The specialist stated that while the issue is complicated by the fact that both the gas and electric parts of PG&E are run under one holding company, Sempra Energy, Portland General Electric, or Berkshire Hathaway could all be candidates as “viable bidder[s] for the gas assets.” However, the former COO continued by saying that “just shifting the exposure of inverse condemnation and the risks of state ownership of PG&E’s even T&D [transmission and distribution] system” is not a viable option, and this raises further questions on why companies would purchase PG&E assets if they were “subject to this notion of strict liability.” Third Bridge Forum’s moderators asked two specialists about the viability of PG&E becoming a state-owned utility, but both replied that they did not think it was possible, with one of our specialists explaining that “they don’t have the expertise to operate it,” and would be best to continue “supplying power through someone else’s system.”

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