CalENERGY, EDISON: Energy duo heads toward pivotal date

April 03, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The court battle between local geothermal company CalEnergy and Southern California Edison may come down to April 16.

That is the day Imperial County Superior Court Judge Donal Donnelly could rule whether Edison must pay millions of dollars it owes to CalEnergy.

During a hearing Monday on the CalEnergy lawsuit against Edison, Donnelly delayed ruling on the back payment issue until April 16.

He set that date based on a move by Edison to coordinate the six cases filed against it by renewable energy providers around the state.


Cases have been filed in the Los Angeles and San Bernardino county superior courts seeking similar rulings to the one Donnelly returned two weeks ago when he ruled CalEnergy could suspend its contract to supply power to Edison and sell its power on the open market.

That was CalEnergy's first victory against Edison, which owes the geothermal company about $140 million in back payments for the past five months.

CalEnergy officials were looking for a second court victory Monday, and in a statement released after the hearing company officials said they were disappointed by the delay.

Still, they stated, "We remain optimistic that we will ultimately prevail. … The facts are not in dispute in this matter — Edison owes us millions of dollars, and we need to be paid."

Donnelly said two-week delay that will not be enough time for Edison to go through the legal proceedings necessary to coordinate all the cases against it.

Donnelly said he will rule on the matter in two weeks unless Edison can obtain a stay to prevent him from acting on the lawsuit until Edison coordinates the cases against it.

The mid-April date could prove pivotal because that's when Edison has said it will start making payments to renewable energy providers on a "going-forward basis."

That means Edison will pay CalEnergy and its other energy providers starting this month based on a new rate structure set by the state Public Utilities Commission. That new rate will allow Edison to pay less for renewable energy.

Edison's announcement that it will pay on a going-forward basis does not address the money owed to CalEnergy and other renewable energy providers.

Still, Edison officials have released a statement in which they argue CalEnergy's contract suspension has ended and CalEnergy must resume supplying energy to Edison.

Edison officials say if CalEnergy does not start supplying power to Edison, they will have to determine their next course of action.

Jack Raudy, a spokesman for CalEnergy, said for at least the next two weeks CalEnergy will continue to sell its power on the open market based on the Edison contract suspension.

He said what happens beyond that point depends on the April 16 hearing.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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