Edison again says customers should help pay for San Onofre

Edison ads try to convince customers they should happily pay for Edison’s massive mistakes at San Onofre.

For the second time in two months, Southern California Edison Co. has put advertisements in local papers to make the case that customers should help pay for the closing and cleanup of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Ratepayer advocates accuse Edison of trying to shift the cost of the plant’s decommissioning from its shareholders to its ratepayers.

A full-page ad scheduled to run Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times boasts that Edison stills gets power from hydroelectric plants that were paid off in 1954. The low-cost electricity, the company said, is the result of what it calls the “regulatory compact” between the investor-owned utility and its its 14 million ratepayers.

But just as there are unforeseen benefits, there also are unforeseen costs, Edison says in the ad. That’s where San Onofre comes in.

“Just as all of us continue to benefit from extra-long-lasting components like SCE”s original fleet of hydroelectric plants,” the ad says, “all of us also share in the costs of equipment that is retired early such as San Onofre.”

As a result, Edison is asking its customers to chip in for the multibillion-dollar cost of decommissioning the San Onofre plant in San Diego County after it was permanently shut in July.

Edison opted to close the plant nine years early because it could not find an economical way to fix defective steam generators manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industry. The two companies are in a legal dispute over who is responsible for the failure.

A decision about how to shut the plant and who should pay for it is up to the California Public Utilities Commission.

“We certainly hope the PUC is not moved by something like a paid advertisement,” said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for the Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco-based consumer advocacy group.

“In TURN’s view, it’s also part of the regulatory compact that customers don’t pay for the utility company’s mistakes.”