ORIGINAL REPORTING: California Seeks Relief From Rising Electric Rates
State Utility Regulators Pitch Electricity Affordability Criteria, Ponder Blue Sky Proposals
Herman K. Trabish, March 2, 2022 (California Current)
Editor’s note: California regulators and stakeholders continue to search for ways to pay the high costs of safe and reliable power and keep it affordable.
Regulatory affordability criteria to help control the state’s skyrocketing electricity rates were the starting point of a Feb. 28 California Public Utilities Commission conference. California regulators must act because “there are people that have to choose between utility services and groceries,” said Abigail Solis, Manager of Sustainable Energy Solutions for Self-Help Enterprises. Regulators must “remove barriers to rate assistance programs and address affordability before there are catastrophic effects on vulnerable communities,” she added.
“All households should have zero emissions and affordable energy through a combination of bill-payment assistance and investments, with the role of assistance declining over time,” said Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, and Energy Expert for the Just Solutions Collective.
The CPUC proposed six “Evaluation Criteria” that include regulatory actions on affordability, equity, environmental and social justice, and utility revenue requirements and rates, CPUC Regulatory Analyst for Electric Rates Jack Chang of told the conference. They also consider impacts on state and local economics and the feasibility of regulatory or statutory reforms.
Affordability can be addressed with “active” regulation of rates with equity concerns, California Energy Commission’s Commissioner Andrew McAllister said. Cost-based approaches can restructure rates while also protecting vulnerable customers and optimizing opportunities in economy-wide electrification, he added.
The cost of generating and delivering energy has fallen with wind and solar costs, but electricity rates are rising with costs for wildfires, legacy assets, and public purpose programs. Rate affordability is important because many households face “a double burden of expensive service and a low ability to pay for it,” according to the CPUC’s April 2021 Affordability Report.
The conference was held to comply with the commission’s Docket R.18-07-006 order. But the bulk of the day was spent on reforms to improve affordability, especially through equitably restructured rates that alleviate the energy cost burdens in fixed charges… click here for more