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Electricity rates will be going up across California

Dec 7, 2015 – Warning: You’ll want to avoid turning on the air conditioner at the height of the afternoon heat.

How you’re billed for electricity is going to change, and in ways that are expected to lessen loads for big users, increase loads for light users, and charge everyone more for using power at peak times.

The California Public Utilities Commission’s new “cost-based” rate structure has been years in the making, and will affect just about everyone in the Golden State. The CPUC will hold a community forum at 6 tonight in the Santa Ana City Hall’s council chambers, 20 Civic Center Plaza, to explain these “significant changes” to consumers.

It’s part of a massive public outreach effort. The CPUC decided in July to transition residential electricity rates “to a more effective and cost-based structure, empowering consumers with more opportunities to conserve, and promoting resource optimization and grid reliability,” in its own words.

The changes include not only charging more for power at peak demand times beginning in 2019, but also reducing the myriad tier rates to only two.

These are the first major changes to how electricity is billed since the chaos of rolling brownouts in 2001.

“Rate reform is necessary to move us into a future where consumers have the tools they need to manage their own energy use, and can install new, clean technologies,” said CPUC President Michael Picker said after the decision was made in July. “The world has changed since 2001, when rates were frozen by the Legislature.”

With lower-tier rates frozen, the rate structure “departed increasingly from any cost basis” as time passed, “and imposed ever greater inequities on large-family households that were pushed into higher tiers in hot climate zones,” Picker said. “Our decision helps align rates with the actual cost of service.

It also builds a more nimble rate structure to allow us to add more and more renewables to the grid, and to encourage customers to use energy when we have excess renewables and to cut back during peak periods.”

While many applaud an emphasis on renewables such as solar and wind power, consumer advocates say the CPUC’s new rate structure is unfair.

Flattening rates and adding fixed charges will primarily benefit higher usage customers, the Utility Reform Network has said.

It means higher bills for about 75 percent of customers, and it will send the vast majority of rate reductions to the top 5 percent of users, who have significantly higher incomes and far more discretion over when they use power, TURN says.

The preceding was published in the OC Register Dec. 7, 2015


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