By Dan Cornford
Davisites should be aware of what I was not aware of until a week or so ago. Your PG & E bills are set to go way up and proposals are being made to further dis-incentivize solar power. We are about to be a hit with a barrage of proposals that took me some time to disentangle. PG & E and other major utilities are hitting consumers from three different angles. In two instance the CPUC will likely make a final decision on proposals at its November 2 meeting. So, if you share my concern, please read this article and take some of the actions I suggest at the end of it—most will take only a few minutes of your time.
I am sure I need not regale you with info on PG & E moral and legal culpability for a whole series of recent fires going back to 2017, but PG & E culpability for such events ( read the entry on PG & E in Wikipedia) goes back decades not to mention the San Bruno pipeline explosions of 2010 that killed 8 people and injured 58.
After the rash of major fires, 2017-2022 and findings of PG & E’s legal culpability, there appeared to be some brief prospect of meaningful state intervention by Governor Newsom and the state legislature as PG & faced the prospect of bankruptcy and our governor threatened a public takeover of PG & E. But this came to nothing, and unsurprisingly in view of the fact that PG & E has regularly made large donations to the campaigns of Governor Newsom and many others in the state legislature.
At almost the same time PG & E and its brothers in arms secured the passage of the Utility Tax (AB 205) as a trailer bill in the summer 2022 session of the legislature. This bill will raise utility rates for most Californians by from $350 to $800 a year regardless of their usage. The full story of how this “shadow” bill passed is documented in an excellent Op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle by consumer attorney Alexis Wodtke entitled “Why Your Utility Bills Could be About to Skyrocket in California.”
The Solar Rights Alliance and many other California consumer organizations have launched a major drive to repeal this law which will come into effect in the summer of 2024. For further details go to:
On another front PG & E has proposed a four year General Rate increase which will raise rates for most consumers by 40-60% over four years. As one Davis activist wrote on Nextdoor: “PG&E has filed a four year General Rate Case for another 18% increase in electric and gas rates in 2023 and continued escalations through 2026 to get to an increase of 39.25% and 56.9% in electricity and gas rates, respectively, over 2021 rates. (1) From the funds generated, $12.8 billion will be for new investments, chief of which will be undergrounding the first 3,600 miles of a goal of 10,000 miles of buried power lines. The four year plan will not cover future inflation in prices for gas, electricity, their transmission nor will it cover state mandated expenditures for low income customers and energy efficiency mandates.”
The justification for this increase is that PG & E needs the money to underground a portion of its power lines. Several points need to be made here: 1) PG & E should have done this out of capital expenditures a long time ago; 2) At the present rate that it is undergrounding it will take PG & E 143 years to partially underground its wires; 3) Many argue that PG & E’s safety goal could be accomplished much more cheaply and faster by better insulating its wiring. There is currently a petition at change.org which will be submitted to the CPUC before they meet on this issue on November 2, 2023.
Finally, there is a campaign to stop the CPUC and Governor Newsom from limiting the benefits and incentives for solar energy for renters (apartment buildings), farmers, and schools. Here are the details of the proposal which will be adjudicated by the CPUC on November 2, 2023—less than two weeks from now!!! Again, this information comes from the Solar Rights Alliance:
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- There are limits to what can be accomplished by making a public comments on the CPUC’s website in view of the fact in the words of one source the CPUC is a revolving door between itself and the energy industry:
That said, it is still worth making a comment (as indeed I did). To do so you will need a docket number. To comment on the Utility Tax, R2207005 at this link: https://apps.cpuc.ca.gov/apex/f?p=401:1:0 and to comment on the proposed Generate Rate increase, Docket No. A2106021. https://apps.cpuc.ca.gov/apex/f?p=401:1:0.
- As mentioned above re the General Rate increase sign the petition at change.org.
- Call Governor Newsom (916) 445-2841, and our state representatives Senator Bill Dodd (916) 651-4003, and Rep. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (916) 319-2004. Please do it this week as the decision on two of the above issues will be made by the CPUC on November 2. I did it, and it took me just a few minutes with each call to register my complaint.
- It’s never too late to submit a letter or even an Op-ed to the Davis Enterprise. As I say above, one of the measures has passed and a repeal campaign is underway, and it is not impossible to repeal the other measures if approved by the CPUC on November 2. Furthermore, we need to let Newsom and the state Democratic dominated state legislature that our support and votes cannot be taken for granted!
MY LONGER-TERM SOLUTIONS
- Urge California consumer organizations to put a measure on the ballot to acquire PG & E (and perhaps other large private utilities), but PG & E is the worst villain based on recent history. Seems impossible. In Maine they did this and the measure will appear on the November 2023 ballot. And, if there is a move in this direction, help to gather signatures and donate to the campaign. Remember Proposition 103 which passed in 1988? It has drastically and effectively slowed the increase in car insurance rates, and in the ballot campaign, the proponents were outspent 20-1
- Put a measure on the ballot, if not, in the above, to have the CPUC publicly elected.
- If not in the above, a measure to roll back permanently and significantly private utility rate increases of the past five years or so.
In conclusion, the above rate increase and measures stand to literally impoverish tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Californians and generously reward companies such as PG & E for a multitude of sins that have led to the death and injury of many people and the loss of many homes. It’s up to us to stop this as, not the first time, we cannot count on Governor Newsom or the Democratic party super majority in the state legislature.