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CPUC approves controversial change in electricity billing

Ignoring hundreds of complaints from electricity customers across the state, the California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously Thursday to fundamentally change the way electricity is billed by adding new fixed monthly fee.

In exchange for paying a mandatory $24.15 fee each month, consumers will pay a lower rate for each kilowatt of electricity they use.

The commissioners, appointed by the governor, sided with the state’s three largest utilities in approving the proposal. They said that by lowering the kilowatt-hour rate it would encourage more people to buy electric cars and replace gas appliances in their homes, reducing the use of planet-warming fossil fuels.

The change affects customers of investor-owned electric companies, such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. It does not apply to customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power or other municipal utilities.

The decision was criticized by some lawmakers in both parties, as well as by a coalition of more than 250 consumer groups and other groups, who say millions of Californians living in small, low-electricity homes and apartments will now subsidize high-electricity-consuming households.

Holding signs reading “Protect Workers” and “Protect Tenants,” dozens of coalition members opposed to the fees demonstrated outside the building where commissioners were meeting.

“It will punish people for using less energy,” said Jenn Engstrom, state director of the consumer advocacy group CalPIRG. “This will encourage high consumption and increase bills for millions of Californians.”

Commissioner John Reynolds dismissed those concerns before voting for the proposal. “The public discourse has been disappointing,” he said.

He agreed that with this change, some customers’ total bill would increase, while others would see a decrease. But the focus, he added, should be on reducing the rate per kilowatt hour, which is necessary as the state tries to move more people away from fueling their cars and homes with fossil fuels in favor of electricity, which increasingly comes from wind and wind power. solar farms.

“As a state, we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

The committee was acting to approve the details and amount of the new flat fees to comply with a 2022 law known as Assembly Bill 205.

Governor Gavin Newsom proposed AB 205 as part of his June 26, 2022 budget. Lawmakers approved the bill, and Newsom signed it within days with little public debate.

PG&E had asked the commission for the new monthly fees in a regulatory file just three months before AB 205 was approved.

The bill removed the $10 cap on fixed charges that had been in place since 2013, and opponents say nothing stops utilities from raising that cap.

The law also required fees to increase gradually based on household income.

Last year, PG&E, Edison and SDGE proposed monthly fees of up to $128 for the wealthiest households. The companies requested that a state agency collect and verify each electricity customer’s revenue.

The commission rejected the companies’ proposal and proposed its own this spring. Low-income households already enrolled in programs offering discounts on their electricity bills will pay a monthly fee of less than $24.15.

Households of one or two people earning less than $39,440 will pay $6 per month. Those who earn more than that but less than $62,150 a year will pay a monthly fee of $12.

The commission said the change was not intended to generate additional profits for power companies. Instead, it shifts some of the costs of maintaining power lines and protecting the grid from wildfires to the new flat rate.

The new monthly rates will begin in late 2025 for SoCal Edison and SDGE customers. PG&E customers will see changes in bills starting in 2026.

The commission estimates that a household that powers all of its appliances and a vehicle with electricity will save on average between $28 and $44 per month compared to the current billing structure.

Savings will increase as people use more electricity.

Flagstaff Research, which conducted an analysis for opponents, estimated that about 4 million households using low levels of electricity, including many apartment renters, would pay between $65 and $225 more per year in the framework of the new tariff structure.

At the same time, people living in larger homes using greater amounts of energy will save hundreds of dollars a year, the analysis found.

After the vote, three Republican senators called the proposal poorly constructed and imperfect.

“All this does is place a greater burden on working families who are already facing the impacts of unrealistic energy policies that make California unaffordable,” said caucus Chair Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta).

Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) this week amended her bill called AB 1999, which she proposed in January to undo much of Newsom’s 2022 law that imposed fees fixed.

Irwin’s amended bill would prevent the flat rate from rising faster than inflation and repeal it at the end of 2028.

“A system that promotes high energy consumption could increase costs for the entire grid and lead to higher electricity bills for everyone,” said CalPIRG’s Engstrom. “We expect the state Legislature to act to reverse this bad policy and prevent more proposals like this in the future.”

News Source : www.latimes.com
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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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