Eight investor-owned utilities in Southern California participating in a program to upgrade old and defective gas pipelines and electric power lines in manufactured homes will pass on the costs to their ratepayers to cover the program. Many of the systems have not been upgraded in decades.
Part of the impetus for the upgrades was the 2010 gas line explosion in the San Bruno suburb of the Bay Area that killed eight, injured 58 and caused extensive damage, according to eastcountymagazine. The three-year pilot program that began last year is to proactively address potential safety problems, as MHProNews has leaned..
The utility companies have been working with the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMHCA) and the state to determine a method for replacing the utility lines without passing the cost on to either the residents in manufactured home communities (MHCs) or the owners of the communities.
The result was to replace the master meter arrangement with a network that delivers power directly to each individual MH. The master meter method allowed community owners to buy power at wholesale rates and charge residents retail, with the profit going to maintain and upgrade the utility systems as needed. However, many community owners pocketed the “profit” and did not make the necessary upgrades.
The program’s goal was to convert ten percent of the MH in seven of the utility providers. As for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) chose 32 MHCs for the upgrades. Among the criteria for choosing the communities was the age of the gas systems, the material of the pipes and the size of the systems.
Shirley Watkins, owner of Shady Lane Trailer Park in El Cajon which was switched over to direct power last week, said previously if residents were watching TV or running their air conditioner and they turned on the microwave, a fuse would blow. On occasion it would knock out power to entire sections of the MHC.
Additionally, the upgrades removed overhead power lines and added five new overhead security lights that improves visibility and safety for the residents, who were told the improvements would not substantially increase their utility bills.
Because many of the residents are on fixed incomes in Shady Lane, Watkins says, they are also eligible for energy efficient appliances through SDG&E.
A consultant to the MH industry, Jerry Fisher estimates the costs to upgrade gas and electric lines are about $30,000 per home site. However, he adds if all four lines running to a home have to be replaced the cost could be closer to $60,000 per each.
Although no one has nailed down what the final costs will be, SDG&E says estimates range “from one-fifth of a penny to 6.3 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity, and from two-fifths of a penny per therm of natural gas” for all customers of the utility. ##
(Photo credit:nbcsandiego–manufactured home community)
Article submitted by Matthew J. Silver to Daily Business News-MHProNews.