This editorial was originally published on May 9, 2023 in the Big Bear Grizzly.

As San Bernardino County residents struggle to make ends meet with ever-increasing taxes, staggering inflation, and skyrocketing utility bills, Sacramento will soon hit our pocketbooks again, forcing us to pay for electricity we don’t use.

Last year, Governor Newsom signed AB-205, which authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to use fixed charges for any rate schedule for residential customers. The bill requires the CPUC to adopt a new rate structure utilizing flat rates based on an income-graduated basis with no fewer than three income thresholds. In addition to the flat rate, customers would also still face additional charges based on usage.

As a result of the poorly written AB-205, the three major Investor-Owned Utilities- PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E, have put forth a joint proposal which, unfortunately, falls short of its claim to save money for the average ratepayers. For Southern California Edison (SCE) customers, this would mean a flat rate ranging from $20 to $85 per month, depending on income, PLUS additional usage charges.

Since the flat-rate plan charges are based on income and not actual usage, low-income households could be charged additional utility fees each year regardless of usage. Why should customers who aren’t using electricity be forced to subsidize those who are? More importantly, what happens when we have rolling blackouts? Customers will still be on the hook for those new fees.

This proposal actually discourages conservation. Those using solar energy will still be required to pay the monthly fees. Solar energy users turn to solar to cut their utility bills. This law will discourage solar investment as customers will still be saddled with fees from their utility company.

It’s no secret that utility prices are an increasing financial burden for almost all of us, but the proposal brought about by this half-baked legislation is not the answer. Families face record inflation, and this new scheme amounts to another hidden income tax on struggling families. A new fee based on your earnings sounds like a tax! The bottom line is more “fees” are not a solution to high utility bills. We already know these flat rates won’t stay the same for long. They never do.

If our goal is to help those with low incomes, let’s work to strengthen programs that are already currently available rather than create a new system that is regressive, discourages conservation, and is unfair.

The good news is there’s still time to have your voice heard as the CPUC conducts its hearings on the proposal. You can voice your opinion online at the CPUC’s public comment website or by phone at 1-866-849-8390. The Docket Number to reference is R2207005.

This editorial was originally published in the Big Bear Grizzly.