Californians to see sweeping changes in electricity rates

Californians to see sweeping changes in electricity rates

The California Public Utilities Commission on Friday approved changes that will radically revamp the way electricity rates work in the state by narrowing the gap between prices paid by poor and rich consumers.

The implementation of the changes means those Californians are using very little electricity will see a notable increase in their power bills as the gap between those who consume less and those who consume more is going to be tapered.

Thus the PUC's decision will benefit homeowners who use more than average electricity, while poorer consumers will be at a disadvantage. However, the biggest electricity consumers will face a "super-user electric surcharge" that has been introduced to force them to conserve.

Defending the decision, PUC President Michael Picker said that utility rates needed to keep up with the fast-changing electricity industry, and that changes were necessary to ensure rates remain reasonable and fair to all California utility customers.

But many consumer groups criticized the decision. Mark Toney of The Utility Reform Network said, "Public opposition to eliminating conservation incentives was loud and clear, as was utility support. This is a lose-lose for customers, but business as usual for the CPUC, which has once again done PG&E, Edison and SDG&E's bidding."

In addition to rate hikes, the commission also approved the proposal for different electricity prices at different times of day. The highest price will likely hit in the afternoon. Officials believe that it could decrease the strain on the state's power grid when demand for electricity reaches its late-afternoon peak.

The changes, which will affect customers of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison, will be phased in by 2019.

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