Tag Archives: California Public Utilities Commission

California electricity prices to rise for those who use the least

By David R. Baker, The San Francisco Chronicle

Californians’ electricity rates are about to undergo their most sweeping changes since the state’s energy crisis 15 years ago, cutting costs for people who use large amounts of power while raising bills for more efficient homeowners. The question is, how many people will pay more?

The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote Friday on two competing proposals to radically revamp the way electricity rates work at the state’s big, investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. Both proposals would narrow the gap between prices paid by people who use large amounts of electricity and those who use less. But one proposal, backed by the utilities, would go further than the other, raising utility bills at least $10 per month for an estimated 80 percent of residential customers next year as a result. It would also eventually allow the utilities to impose a fixed monthly charge on all customers, an idea the companies like but consumer advocates hate. The second proposal, from Commissioner Mike Florio, would boost monthly bills at least $10 for 35 percent of residential customers, and explicitly rejects fixed monthly charges.

The issue has been the subject of a fierce lobbying fight ever since 2013, when California legislators authorized the commission to reform electricity rates from top to bottom. Utilities, consumer groups, business associations and solar companies all entered the fray, each trying to tweak the details to their advantage. While arguing over how to fix it, most agreed the current system wouldn’t last.

No element of rate reform provoked a bigger fight than fixed charges. Utilities consider them a way to make sure everyone pays the cost of maintaining the electrical grid, at a time when an increasing number of homeowners are installing solar panels to generate their own electricity.

Read full article in the San Francisco Chronicle

California Wants All New Homes to Be Net Zero in 2020

By Katherine Tweed, Greentech Media

California has moved one step closer to making one of its “big, bold energy-efficiency strategies” outlined seven years ago a reality.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) have launched a residential Zero Net Energy Action Plan to build a self-sustaining market for all new homes to be net-zero energy by 2020.

“Zero Net Energy has been a vision for California for nearly 10 years, and with this industry-supported Action Plan, we are now ready to make that vision a reality with feasible, market-driven concepts to transform the new residential housing market,” CPUC Commissioner Carla J. Peterman said in a statement.

Zero-net-energy buildings produce as much energy as they consume, usually through a mix of high efficiency and clean onsite generation. The definition requires that a home create as much energy as it uses over the course of an entire year, rather than on a real-time basis.

In California, homes consume nearly one-third of the energy used in the state. It’s not just single-family homes that California is trying to reinvent. The action plan also applies to multifamily homes of less than three stories and low-income housing.

While the prospect of being able to develop net-zero, or passive, homes is increasingly realistic due to falling prices for solar and the increased efficiency of many household appliances, it’s still not easy.

Read full article from Greentech Media

(TAGS: Zero-net-energy, passive homes)

Inside the Minds of Regulators: How Different States Are Dealing With Distributed Energy

By Julia Pyper, Greentech Media

With distributed generation steadily rising and creeping into new states, electricity regulators in each region of the U.S. are dealing with change very differently. Regulatory officials from California, Texas, Minnesota and Arizona discussed how they’re addressing some of the most pressing issues in their service territories this week at the National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid in Washington, D.C.

California: California is the national leader in the deployment of solar PV, plug-in electric vehicles, grid-scale energy storage and home automation technologies. Today, about 20 percent of the state’s electricity comes from renewable energy, putting California on track to meet its 33 percent renewable energy target by 2020.

But while the Golden State continues to come up with new ways to promote and integrate advanced energy technologies, the focus will shift from renewables in the coming years, said Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.

“We’re moving away from a technology-based discussion to [a discussion of] grid values — what does the grid need, what do customers need?” he said. “And we will probably move away from a focus on renewables per se as a series of technologies, to a series of metrics on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” Picker added that this shift away from individual technologies toward holistic grid solutions will reinforce a convergence between traditional electric utilities, the transportation industry, the natural gas industry and all types of distributed energy resources (DERs).

Read full article from Greentech Media

California’s Major Residential Rate Reform: The Solar-Friendly Alternative

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission proposed a new regime for how most of the state’s residential customers are charged for their electricity, including some major changes that could have a negative effect on the economics of rooftop solar power and household energy efficiency.

On Friday, CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio offered his own Alternate Proposed Decision (PDF) aimed at avoiding some of these effects, while still meeting the terms of the rate reforms called for by 2013 state law AB 327. In simple terms, Florio’s rate proposal does two things differently, both aligned with what most solar, efficiency and environmental groups have been asking for.

  • The first difference has to do with changes to California’s four-tier monthly rate structures, which can vary from about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour for the lowest tier to as high as 42 cents per kilowatt-hour for the highest tier. Last month’s proposal would allow the state’s big three utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, to move to a two-tier system with only a 20 percent difference between the top and bottom tiers. But Florio’s proposal would keep three tiers instead, and leave a wider 33 percent differential between the top and bottom rates.
  • The second big difference with Florio’s proposal has to do with minimum monthly charges on customers bills. Last month’s proposal would allow a minimum bill of up to $10 per month through 2019, and then allow a fixed charge to be imposed instead. Florio’s alternate proposal keeps the minimum bill, but rejects the idea that a fixed charge could ever take its place — a subtle yet important difference that can shore up the value of solar and efficiency for customers with smaller monthly bills.
  • Florio’s alternate proposal does keep one important idea from its predecessor proposal in place, however — the switch to time-of-use (TOU) rates. Both plans would require the state’s big three utilities to start TOU pilots by next year, and to file proposals by the end of 2017 to move to a default TOU rate structure by 2019.

This chart outlines the key differences between last month’s proposal and Florio’s alternate proposal.

Both proposals are set to be considered by commissioners at the CPUC’s June 25 meeting.

Read full article from Greentech Media