Editorial: Will higher rates make you serious?

Published on

Few will be surprised that we’re finally being asked to pay more — much more

Ventura County Star

While Gov. Gray Davis has stubbornly staved off rate increases that the utilities and others have been clamoring for, it was perhaps inevitable that ratepayers would eventually have to pay more.

With the California Public Utilities Commission jacking up electricity rates by as much as 46 percent, customers of Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric now have a huge incentive to conserve: their monthly electric bill.

There are any number of points that many will find disturbing about this latest power woes chapter. After months of finger- pointing, the PUC has done what most were convinced it would have to do.

As a result, most energy consumers can prepare for a case of “sticker shock” that will start to hit home as early as May, and which will most definitely hit home even harder when summertime temperatures cause more residential and business customers to turn on their air conditioners for relief.

How many of those customers choose to keep those high-energy users turned off, then, will be a key to what happens energy-wise this summer. Will you turn the power on, or keep it off?

State officials have been making the case for greater conservation measures for months. In fact, Gov. Davis went so far as to implement a virtually meaningless conservation policy March 15 that’s supposed to result in $1,000 fines against those businesses that fail to conserve energy.

But a trip up and down Highway 101 late at night or early in the morning only underlines the weakness of the policy, given the bright lights visible along the county’s busiest thoroughfare. Anyone who thought there would be a groundswell of support for the governor’s lights-out policy would be disappointed in the response thus far.

As Mike Guerin, chief of law enforcement for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, told Star reporter David Montero last week, “The intent was never to get a bunch of prosecutions. It falls back on a good-faith effort by businesses to make reductions.”

Indeed, that point was further underlined by Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks, who noted that his deputies had neither the time nor the resources to police energy conservation.

Where we stand today, then, is really quite simple.

The governor, the Legislature and the state’s major utility companies have yet to develop a strategy to better guide our energy needs and concerns for the future.

Instead, the state continues to pay outlandish fees for the energy it purchases from wholesale suppliers, fees that ultimately will be covered through rates paid by consumers.

As the PUC worked through its rate increase Tuesday, one point was clear: With the increase, be prepared to pay much more. In fact, the new rates are in addition to a 9 percent to 15 percent increase already approved in January, and are in addition to a 10 percent increase already approved and scheduled to go into effect next year.

Precisely how all of that will affect the average consumer isn’t clear — yet — with the PUC maintaining that the new rate system will ultimately cost “energy hogs” the most.

While that may be the case, Harvey Rosenfeld, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said what many consumers are sure to be thinking today:

“Until our elected officials start acting to protect us, we are going to be at their mercy, at the mercy of this rip-off.”

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdoghttps://consumerwatchdog.org
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