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The Cost of Being 'Green': California Confronts Sky-High Utility Rates

The Cost of Being 'Green': California Confronts Sky-High Utility Rates

Apr 8, 2024

The Cost of Being 'Green': California Confronts Sky-High Utility Rates

In California, a recent spike in electricity rates has lawmakers from both major political parties expressing concern. During a March meeting, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, chair of the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee, highlighted the dire situation facing Californians as they confront soaring utility bills. "Rates are skyrocketing in California," she stated, emphasizing that "millions of Californians are at the breaking point."

Businesses, too, are feeling the pinch, with some struggling to stay afloat amid increasing energy costs. Alice Reynolds, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, acknowledged the role of the state's green energy policies in driving up electricity prices, stating that investments in clean energy technology are "funded through electricity bills."

The cost of electricity for customers of the three largest investor-owned utilities has risen dramatically, with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) customers experiencing a rate increase of 127 percent since 2014. Linda Serizawa, deputy director of energy at California’s Public Advocates Office, informed the committee that rate hikes have been "unsustainable" and the increases "inequitable," posing challenges to the state's electrification goals.

Serizawa also noted that subsidies for rooftop solar customers have shifted $6.5 billion in costs to those without solar panels, suggesting that "cost-ineffective programs" should be eliminated from utility bills.

Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson criticized the state's clean energy goals, suggesting they are causing financial hardship for Californians. "We’re putting millions of Californians into poverty," he said, calling for a reassessment of the state's aspirations to mitigate the burden on ratepayers.

Echoing Patterson's sentiment, Democratic Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes and others on the committee expressed that the current rate levels are unsustainable for consumers, including middle-class Californians.

The committee scrutinized the profits of PG&E, which totaled $2.2 billion in 2023, marking a 25 percent increase from the previous year. Assemblyman Damon Connolly demanded an explanation for the rising profits alongside spiking energy rates.

Experts in utility policy, like Michael Wara from Stanford University, advised the committee to consider separating climate agendas from rates to alleviate the financial strain on consumers. He underscored the urgency of the affordability crisis and its human impacts, warning that some residents might face health risks due to the inability to afford air conditioning during the summer heat.

The situation is particularly acute in hotter regions of the state, where families are forced to endure high temperatures without the use of air conditioners. Republican Rep. John Duarte described the dire conditions in his Central Valley district during the summer months.

As the state grapples with these issues, policy changes appear to be on the horizon to address what has become a significant cost of living problem for Californians.

Originally reported by The Epoch Times


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