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SD County affirms Income-based Fees

Stressed Man

HERE'S THE SCOOP...

December 23, 2023

In 2022 California law makers passed AB205 which recommended that utility companies charge a flat fee based upon income in addition to usage fees. According to Sacramento legislators, the hope was to make utilities more affordable for lower income households. However, it appears this is an unfounded hope as it was stated there was nothing to support that reduced rates would become a reality. In San Diego County, serviced primarily by SDGE, we already have the highest electricity rates in the country. If imposed, this legislation means most people will pay significantly more. Here’s the breakdown of how much you’ll pay.

 

The specific rates in this “flat fee” scheme is now being voted on by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The proposal would charge customers of Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric fixed rates based on income. Plus you’d be charged for usage as well. For San Diego Gas & Electric customers, the rates would be as follows:

  • Income of under $28,000: $24/month

  • Income of $28,000-69,000: $34/month

  • Income of $69,000-180,000: $73/month

  • Income of over $180,000: $128/month 


Here are just a few concerns:

1) How will household income info be determined and shared with SDGE – privacy concerns, accuracy concerns, income changes yearly, red tape nightmares

2) Low income families living together under one household would have rates determined upon total household income, meaning all families, adult children living at home, etc. would be included

2) Disincentivizes solar and energy conservation

3) Is part of a larger California agenda to have all basic needs costs determined by income - such as phone, water, etc. rather than by consumption

4) Substantial cost to implement this program. 2021 estimates were $46 million over 3 years. Likely that has at least doubled that now.

 

The democrat proposed legislation was passed by the California Democrat super majority in Sacramento and signed by Gavin Newsom. Republicans have been fighting the legislation to no avail.  But now, even some democrat legislators are having second thoughts. Here’s a letter sent to the CPUC asking for reconsideration of the fee structure.

At the December 5, 2023 San Diego County Board of Supervisors agenda item #29 was a proposal to support warranted concerns about the new fee structure and push back on AB 205 and SDGE locally. SDGE has made record profits (over $900 millions in 2022) despite creating new infrastructure to deal with fires and other issues. Developing infrastructure has proven to be a big money-maker for utilities. Utility companies make large sums for creating infrastructure often determined by the distance of lines to be installed. Imagine the income from running electricity from the desert to the rest of California. The State has required additional infrastructure in order to implement its Climate Action Plan. Part of the new fixed fee is to support the additional infrastructure needed to comply with California’s climate goals. This involves developing solar farms in fragile desert areas, building windmills, new power lines and other sources which threaten wildlife, plant life and the balance of nature. Unfortunately, there have been no studies to suggest that these climate actions will have the intended outcome.

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At the SD County Board of Supervisors’ meeting Supervisor Desmond was the sole vote to push back against the new base rates. Supervisor Anderson had concerns about the future implications of this item yet voted for the new rates following the wishes of his constituents. Many people likely falsely believed they would see a reduction in their SDGE bill despite the Assembly hearing making it clear that there was no such guarantee. Supervisors Vargas and newbie Montgomery Steppe also voted for support of the new rate hikes. Supervisors Lawson-Remer left during public comments on the item and return for the next agenda item, thus avoiding having to cast her vote and take a public stance. Upon reviewing many of the public comments as well as e-comments submitted to the Board, many people who opposed the item actually supported pushing back on the fees. The wording of the agenda item (#29) was very confusing and even veteran board meeting participants were flummoxed as to what it meant to support versus oppose. Here’s a video of the complete discussion on this item at the Board meeting.

It may still be possible to stop this measure. According to some, the legislation is not a mandate, rather a suggestion, and is currently being review by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Contact the CPUC commissioners here and tell them you don’t want this income based fixed rate schedule for utilities.

To learn more about the effects and effectiveness of Green Energy watch “Planet of the Humans” by Michael Moore.

 

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