California plans to introduce fixed monthly fees on electric bills, but the potential impact on residential solar remains unclear.
The Public Advocates Office (PAO) of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has proposed adding a monthly flat fee to utility bills based on income level. The proposed price change aims to lower the bills of the lowest-income residents, while at the same time targeting the billing more directly to operating costs.
Under PAO’s recommended Income Graduated Fixed Charge, customers not enrolled in the California Alternative Rates for Energy (CARE) program will be charged between $22 and $42 per month, depending on their area. CARE customers are charged $14 to $22 per month, depending on income level and region.
For households earning $50,000 or less per month, the flat rate would be $0, but only if California Climate Credit applies to compensating the flat fee. At the same time, PAO’s proposal lowers usage-based electricity prices. The average interest rates of the institutions owned by three large investors would decrease by 16–22 percent.
The lowest-income Californians are expected to save about $10 to $20 a month under the proposal, while middle-income customers could see costs increase by about $20 a month. PAO said it expects the majority of low-income customers (earning $50,000 or less per year) to see their monthly bills drop by $10 or more, while a small portion of the highest-income earners (earning $100,000 per year) will see their monthly bills increase by $10 or more.
The proposed fees are aimed at preventing the rising prices of electricity production and transmission, which are among the highest in the country. Interest rates are expected to continue to rise sharply as forest fire mitigation measures are implemented by power plants that have been found to be responsible for starting them.
“We’re very concerned. We don’t see growth stopping at this point,” said Linda Serizawa, PAO’s deputy director of energy. pv magazine. “In fact, we believe that the pace and extent of the (increase) increase will increase faster than we would have expected for several years now.”
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