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Proposed change will increase utility costs for low-income consumers
 Protesters from the Central City SRO Collaborative at a CPUC business meeting on September 23, 2014. Photo Ana Montes
Protesters from the Central City SRO Collaborative at a CPUC business meeting on September 23, 2014. Photo Ana Montes

For the first time in more than 15 years, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is considering dramatic changes to residential electricity rates across the state that will mean higher bills for the majority of residential customers. California’s three big private utility companies—Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)—have proposed changes that would: add a $10 per month fixed fee to all bills ($5 for California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) customers); reduce the number of rate tiers (from 4 to 2); increase baseline rates; and reduce the overall CARE discount. The CPUC is also considering whether to automatically enroll all customers into a “time of use” rate that would charge significantly higher rates during peak summer hours.

The utility companies claim that these changes will help to protect all customers from punitively high electricity bills, help customers located in hot climates, and reduce subsidies between high- and low-usage customers.

But adding a monthly fee and raising the baseline rate would mean higher monthly bills for all CARE customers and most low-income customers. These changes would also punish customers who already conserve energy, and lower monthly bills for high-income and high-usage customers, especially those with large homes, large central air conditioning systems and large swimming pools.

Marin Cantú visited from Fresno in November of 2009 to protest a rate hike at the California Public Utilities Commission Office in San Francisco. Mr. Cantu continues to be active in opposting PG&E rate hikes. Photo Ana Montes
Marin Cantú visited from Fresno in November of 2009 to protest a rate hike at the California Public Utilities Commission Office in San Francisco. Mr. Cantu continues to be active in opposting PG&E rate hikes. Photo Ana Montes

“The proposed changes will result in most, if not all, low-income customers receiving CARE having a higher bill at the end of the month, and 25 percent of the wealthiest customers are going to get a noticeable reduction,” said Mark Toney, TURN executive director.

In addition, switching customers to default “time of use” pricing will increase electricity bills in the afternoon and early evening—resulting in higher summertime bills for people living in the hotter climates, and create hardship for the elderly, the disabled, for infants or for people who work at night or at home. The introduction of a $10 per month fee would amount to a $120 per year addition to electricity bills on top of the increased rates for all Tier 1 and Tier 2 usage.

The CPUC is expected to make a decision sometime this summer.

TURN urges consumers to voice their opinion about this proposal by contacting the CPUC Public Advisor, attending upcoming CPUC meetings, or by contacting Jasmine Kavezade, TURN grassroots organizer at (415) 954-8082 or jkavezade@turn.org for more information.

Story by: Jasmine Kavezade