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Power rates could drop for some SJ Valley users

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POSTED September 13, 2013 12:54 a.m.

Those who use a lot of electricity running air conditioning have essentially been subsidizing those who use smaller amounts of power for the past 12 years.

That was the result of regulations passed during the energy crisis in 2001 that froze the cost per kilowatt for ratepayers of the two lowest tiers of power usage charged by utilities such as PG&E. That led to any increase in wholesale costs paid by utilities such as PG&E being absorbed exclusively by upper tier users. A large chunk of San Joaquin Valley homes have power bills in the upper PG&E rate tiers due to running air conditioning.

That will change in the future if Gov. Jerry Brown follows through on a promise to sign legislation passed this week that removes rate freezes that have kept the lowers two tiers of electricity use at less per kilowatt hour than the higher tiers.

How the change will impact ratepayers won’t be known exactly until the California Public Utilities adopts new rates using the guidelines of the proposed law.

PG&E spokesperson Lyndsey Paulo said Thursday PG&E is confident it will result in rate relief for many San Joaquin Valley customers but exactly what that means won’t be known until the CPUC makes a decision on rates to reflect the bill’s language.

More residential customers in the San Joaquin Valley, Inland Empire and Mojave Desert have power bills that consume electricity into the third and fourth tiers than in the Bay Area and along the Coast due to the blistering summer heat. Air conditioning is the biggest user of electricity for residential customers.

The measure also gives the PUC the authority to charge all ratepayers a fixed monthly fee of up to $10 each.

The legislation also would authorize the PUC to rewrite rules for solar power users selling excess power back to the grid and to require utilities to generate even more electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources. The state now requires utilities to get 33% of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

The state’s three largest utilities — PG&E, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison Co.  — embrace the legislation. The Utility Reform Network, often times the most vocal critic of the state’s Big 3 power providers, is also on board.

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