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Our Opinion: Paying bills: A fine idea

November 17, 2001

CalEnergy has filed a new lawsuit against Southern California Edison to get what it is owed. The geothermal company says it is owed more than a $100 million in back payments by Edison.

The new lawsuit came a year nearly to the day that CalEnergy filed its first lawsuit against Edison. At that time the utility had stopped making payments to CalEnergy and other renewable energy providers as the state suffered through an energy crisis.

CalEnergy won the right in court to break its contract with Edison and sell power on the open market until Edison resumed payments. In June the companies reached an agreement that led CalEnergy to continue providing energy to Edison. Edison was to pay for power on a going-forward basis and pay a portion of the back payments. It would pay the rest of the back payments after the utility became credit worthy.

Edison is now credit worthy, yet we share in CalEnergy's concern as to whether Edison will live up to its agreement and pay what is owed. Edison declined to comment when contacted by this newspaper. Edison officials provided a written statement that CalEnergy's allegation that Edison is in breach of the contract is untrue. Edison also states that it plans to repay the money it owes to all its creditors by the first quarter of 2002.

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We hope that is true. We support CalEnergy in trying to protect its interests. We had hoped the legal battle between the companies was over, but that is not the case.

CalEnergy is important in the Imperial Valley for the jobs it provides and the property taxes it pays to the county. We want to see Edison and CalEnergy work out their differences, but if Edison thinks it can avoid paying what is owed, it is mistaken.

CalEnergy provided energy to Edison when Edison was struggling. Now that Edison is stronger financially, it should live up to its obligations. If it chooses not to, we would urge the California Public Utilities Commission and the courts to get involved. This is an issue that could affect other renewable energy providers in the Valley and throughout the state.

We would hate to see the state move into another power crisis when it is just starting to recover from the previous crisis. We wonder if this new controversy could be a sign of troubles to come. We hope not.

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