California power regulators to decide how to allocate rate hikes
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – California retailers, manufacturers and homeowners who’ve held their breath, waiting to hear how much more they’ll pay for next month’s electric bill will finally get an answer.
The state Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote Monday on a pair of proposals that map out how they’ll allocate record electric rate hikes among customers of the state’s two largest utilities.
With rates going up anywhere from 7 percent to 61 percent – depending on everything from whether the customer manufacturers sweatshirts or heats a swimming pool to processing tomatoes – nearly everyone will feel some pain.
But each group claims they’ll be charged more than their fair share if the PUC adopts rate proposals introduced last week by commission President Loretta Lynch and PUC Administrative Law Judge Christine Walwyn.
”If someone wanted a primer on how to cause a recession in California, it would be hard to find a better (example),” Keith McCrea of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association told the PUC Friday, as lawyers for each customer class pleaded for a break.
Since it unanimously approved rate hikes March 27, the commission has struggled to fashion rates that will simultaneously recoup the $5.2 billion the state has spent buying power, return the state’s largest utilities to solvency and trigger enough conservation to help fend off some of this summer’s rolling blackouts.
Under Lynch’s plan, as many as half of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Southern California Edison Co.’s 9 million customers would not see their bills rise at all. She would bill residential customers at several different levels based on how much power they use.
The heaviest commercial users could pay 50 percent more. And while state law shields average residential customers from rate hikes on much of their power use, businesses would have to pay more for every kilowatt of electricity.
Gov. Gray Davis issued a statement Sunday saying he prefers his own plan for allocating rate increases. Davis’ plan would distribute rate hikes more evenly among all customers and would also include customers of a third ailing utility, San Diego Gas and Electric Co.
Federal officials and energy experts have repeatedly said charging substantially more for power is the only way to cut demand and help avert some of this summer’s predicted rolling blackouts.
California Public Utilities Commission: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov
Gov. Gray Davis: http://www.governor.ca.gov
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