JUST SAYIN’-The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) is holding hearings right now to determine if Southern California Edison (SCE), an Investor-Owned Utility (IOU), can adjust its rates.
I urge a resounding NO!
If you merely listen to the justifications advanced by the IOUs, you could not help but laugh at their ludicrous reasoning: lower the rates for their high-use (wealthier) customers and raise the rates for their low-use (middle and low-income) users … to make the billing burden equal (?) for all. Equal? How do they calculate that?!
Consequences, you may ask?
Lower-income customers often go without in order to pay for rent or food or clothing for themselves and their children. We know that some of the elderly and disabled have gotten sick or even died as a direct result of that sacrifice. And now they must pay more for what they cannot afford now?!
The incentive to be more energy-efficient and pursue the installation of solar roof panels would be virtually eliminated. You see, the less energy customers use, the less profit for the IOUs, but the higher customer monthly payments.
As a backdrop, in 2013 the state legislature passed AB 327 (Perea) which, in part, provides that the CPUC hold numerous hearings on the impact an altered utility rate structure would have on the consumer.
Though supported, naturally, by the IOUs, these changes are emphatically opposed by consumer groups, environmental organizations, and clean-energy companies—to name but a few interested parties. Their findings indicate that the ask would provide more profit for the IOUs while essentially receiving permission, at the same time, to maintain dirty power plants and less local clean energy.
Furthermore, AB 327 allows the IOUs to spread costs across all levels of residential energy users regardless of profligate usage and income affordability. God forbid, the IOUs should in any way reduce profit-share for their stockholders!
Thus, the need for well-researched, factual input at these hearings (or through other contact channels) is imperative!
SCE wants to compress its 4-tier rate system to 2. Tier 1 would include everyone with its baseline rate which takes into consideration various consideration including climate zones (for instance, the San Fernando Valley needs more electrical use due to its much hotter climate compared with the South Bay cities along the cooler coastlines). Wealthier high users with their bigger homes and large swimming pools and spas would find themselves in a tier 2 (previously covering the higher-use tiers 2, 3, and 4). Where is the sense in that?!
On top of those changes, the IOUs (Edison and PG & E and others—LADWP, by the way, is a publicly owned utility—a POU) want to require a fixed $10 a month ($120 a year) payment per customer ($5 at $60 a year for lower-income customers) for “maintenance” (often for equipment from which those in need derive little or no benefits or for energy they do not use). What is more, these cumulative policies literally punish the users who are doing their best to be energy-conscious and energy-thrifty!
Maintenance? If left up to the oversight of these IOUs, the guiding principle would seem to be “Greed is good!” but for whom? Certainly not for the customers of San Onofre (with its nuclear issues). Owned by SCE and other local utilities, it is now permanently shut down. The problem stemmed, in part, from steam generation failures. Similarly, San Bruno is another tragic example of how PG & E’s inadequate attention led to the fatal explosion there.
Fixed charges “undermine billions of dollars from state rebate programs and billions more invested by customers in energy conservation and roof-top solar … putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk.” Right now, at least 47,000 jobs can be attributed to the companies which hire solar roof-top workers. At this time of what for many is staggering unemployment (though the latest reports put us at 5.9% unemployment nationally), we are in no position (nor should we be) to make choices that would jeopardize any employment opportunities.
Another interesting point: “Customer bills are normalized to their climate zone,” so right now people paying the highest energy rates are customers using more than their neighbors do and should not be compared to users in other climate zones. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. The current rate structure is certainly fairer than what is being suggested, keeping in mind, at the same time, that it is less than a perfect system.
The truth is that those who consume the most energy put a strain on our current electrical grid system, on human health and safety, on our general economy, and our shared environment. Such customers should not be rewarded with lower rates for their irresponsible use! In addition, if the rate-structure change is accepted by the CPUC, the actual time of use (TOU) would not be taken into consideration (thus disregarding what part of the day electrical energy is used and how it is consumed seasonally).
To answer another question, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled would continue to get some government assistance as they have in the past, but these demographics would still be subject to higher bills if IOUs have their way. Under the guise of providing thoughtful consideration for needier customers, the IOU’s “fairer” policies would produce just the opposite effect.
Their further complaint that roof-top users involved in the net-metering program do not pay their fair share is very simply a specious argument. Net metering gives rooftop customers the ability to offset their energy bills with clean energy. In actuality, nearly all such customers still have to paysomething on their monthly accounts because it is rare that these customers ever zero out their bills.
Southern California Edison has no qualms about saying that it “is looking to revamp its residential rate structure so heavy-usage customers aren’t paying more than their fair share and low-usage customers aren’t paying too little.”
Say w-h-a-t?! An incredible mind-set that lays out for the public the IOUs’ commiserating attitude toward the rich and their indifference and heartlessness toward the poor (you know, that 47%)!!
With this information, I hope you will contact any and all of the sources listed below to let the CPUC know that the IOU-recommended rate structure change is simply intolerable and unacceptable! But do it now before it is too late to offer your input.
Use your voice, make contact:
● Aura Vasquez at Sierra Club My Generation: sierraclub.org/my generation
● Jasmin Vargas at Sierra Club Beyond Coal: [email protected]
● Mindy Pratt at the Utility Reform Network: 415-929-8876 x 306
● CPUC: 213-576-7000 or 800-365-0550
(Rosemary Jenkins is a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Alliance. Jenkins has written A Quick-and=Easy Reference to Correct Grammar and Composition, Leticia in Her Wedding Dress and Other Poems, and Vignettes for Understanding Literary and Related Concepts. She also writes for CityWatch.)
Vol 12 Issue 81
Pub: Oct 7, 2014