On Monday, February 28th, RCRC participated in a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) en banc hearing in the new proceeding examining the affordability of electricity and natural gas service.  The CPUC is using this proceeding to evaluate policy solutions to reduce customer rate impacts.   

Many consumers, local governments, and advocacy groups have long complained about rapidly rising electricity costs.  Some of the more recent cost increases have been the result of long-overdue infrastructure upgrades and vegetation management work necessary to reduce the risk of utility wildfire ignition; however, others result from many of the state’s climate change and related policy objectives.   

Stakeholders had previously submitted a broad array of potential measures to reduce energy prices, for the CPUC’s consideration.  Those proposals ranged from moving wildfire mitigation costs to the General Fund; creating a wildfire mitigation surcharge for customers in the highest fire threat areas; shifting to state ownership and financing of transmission infrastructure; establishing gasoline and vehicle surcharges to pay for transportation electrification costs; allowing investor-owned utilities more flexibility in selling renewable energy credits; adopting income-graduated fixed charges; and much more. 

At the hearing, RCRC urged the state to consider shifting significant wildfire mitigation costs from ratepayers to the General Fund while the state is flush with cash.  Using the state’s current cash surplus on wildfire mitigation will offset the need for short-term rate increases while improving longer-term system reliability and safety.   

RCRC and San Diego Gas and Electric also strongly cautioned the CPUC against imposing a new charge on customers living in high fire risk areas, noting the overwhelming unpopularity and unwieldiness of the former State Responsibility Area (SRA) fire prevention fee imposed on those living in the SRA and the regressive nature of that fee. 

RCRC also expressed concern about imposing new taxes on gasoline and vehicles to pay for transportation electrification. RCRC noted that rural communities have some of greatest need for electric vehicle charging infrastructure; however, such an approach would be extremely regressive for those who cannot afford to purchase an electric vehicle and those who live in areas with the lowest number of chargers. 

RCRC will be providing formal comments to the CPUC in the coming months.  Please contact RCRC Policy Advocate, John Kennedy, for more information.