Beware of another customer-paid utility ransom: The Ukiah Daily Journal

Whenever the three largest private power companies in California tell you they want to change their pricing structure just for your own good, hold on to your wallet.

These companies—Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric—caused exponentially more physical damage to this state and its people over the past decade than any other industry, and they never paid much for their misdeeds.

One, PG&E, has been convicted of manslaughter and negligence for its role in both the wildfires and a massive natural gas pipeline explosion, with not a single employee serving a day in prison for causing the loss of more of 200 lives and many hundreds. homes and other businesses.

Rather than severely penalize these companies, the friends of the utility in the state Legislature and other offices, from the governor on down, continue to bail them out.

When bankruptcy threatened PG&E after its admitted roles in the massive 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed the city of Paradise in Butte County, Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers created the Ongoing State Wildfire Fund that guarantees relief to businesses after future fires they may cause. Customers of the Big Three utility companies still pay monthly to finance this $13 billion insurance policy.

When PG&E became concerned about potential losses from closing the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant on schedule in 2025, Newsom and the Legislature set a state-funded extension of at least five years. Justification for this took the form of “blackout blackmail”, threats of power outages if Diablo went offline. But there are many “peak” power plants throughout the state, coming on at times of very high electrical demand and making outage threats questionable.

Now utility companies are at it again, using a law passed quietly last year that supposedly requires them to restructure electricity rates so that the rich pay more than the poor for electricity, regardless of how much energy they use.

Under this plan, households with incomes below $28,000 would pay a flat amount of $15 per month to finance energy infrastructure, such as transmission lines, with usage charges added. The flat charge for households making between $28,000 and $69,000 would be $20 to $34, those making between $69,000 and $180,000 would pay $51, and households with incomes over $180,000 would pay $92 per month, plus usage fees. .

One problem with this: Average net bills for everyone will most likely increase, starting in mid-2025. The first phase of public comment on this system must be submitted to the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by 2 of June.

This masquerades as help for low-income families, but it’s really just another long-term insurance policy for utility companies. Community Choice Aggregations (CCAs) are consolidating across California today, from Sonoma to San Diego, from Placer County to Pico Rivera.

These agencies buy power wherever they can get it, offering options including fully renewable power for those who want to pay a little more than buying the same mix that the utility companies offer.

They use utility power lines to bring that power to customers.

But what if large-scale CCAs like Northern California’s MCE Community Choice Energy and Southern California’s Clean Power Alliance decide to build their own transmission facilities?

Utility companies may be looking for white elephants of billion-dollar transmission lines they built with consumer money purchased through monthly bills. To eliminate that risk, large companies need guaranteed funds to maintain and expand their lines, thereby discouraging CECs from undermining them by getting their own facilities.

That seems to be what the new pricing system is about, although no utility would ever admit it, and the PUC can be counted on to cooperate as it almost always accommodates the utilities it regulates. If the new system also discourages rooftop solar installations by forcing solar homeowners to pay monthly electric bills, that’s fine for utility companies.

That’s why their lobbyists worked to get the Legislature and Newsom to “demand” them to make the currently planned change.

So, as usual with utilities, it’s caveat emptor, buyer beware. The new planned pricing for utilities is designed to help utilities first. Any good he might accomplish for anyone else would be incidental.

Email Thomas Elias at [email protected]. His book, “Burzynski’s breakthrough, the most promising cancer treatment, and the government’s campaign to crush it,” is now available in a paperback fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit