Is it true that our electricity rates will be going down? | A New Shade of Green | Sherry Listgarten | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

E-mail Sherry Listgarten

About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

View all posts from Sherry Listgarten

Is it true that our electricity rates will be going down?

Uploaded: Mar 6, 2022
Many of us have felt the pinch of high electricity bills over the winter, and our bills only seem to go up. Well, it’s not your imagination. Electricity rates at the big three investor-owned utilities have risen relentlessly over the past few years. (1)

Electricity rates at the big investor-owned utilities have risen far faster than inflation (CPI) recently. Source: Jennifer Dowdell of TURN (The Utility Reform Network) at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), 2022

The rate increases combined with economic difficulties during the pandemic have resulted in nearly $2B in arrearages (bills not being paid). Power-intensive businesses (e.g., cold storage) say they are having difficulty competing since California’s rates far exceed those of neighboring states.

California electricity rates are very high compared to neighboring states. Source: Catherine Yap of CLECA (California Large Energy Consumers Association) at the CPUC, 2022

Help is on its way with bills, but that is a temporary band-aid; we have to do something about our ever-increasing rates. As Executive Director Mark Toney of consumer advocate TURN proclaimed in an impassioned speech at a recent meeting on affordability at the CPUC, “We need a time out!” (2)

Executive Director Mark Toney of TURN calls for a time out on rate increases at a recent meeting of the CPUC. Source: CPUC meeting video around timestamp -4:16, 2022

As we’ve explained before in this blog, high electricity rates hit low-income households harder because electricity use is relatively flat across households of different incomes. Furthermore, high rates can dissuade customers from switching away from fossil fuels, making it difficult for California to hit its emissions targets. You can see some of those break-even operating prices for fuel switching in the table below, assuming gasoline is $4.64/gallon and natural gas is $2.20/therm. (3)

Our high electric rates can make it hard for fuel switching, especially space heating, to pencil out. This chart reflects fuel costs only and assumes gasoline is $4.64/gallon and natural gas is $2.20/therm. Source: Merrian Borgeson of NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) at the CPUC, 2022

The situation has become so pressing that the CPUC recently held a two-day meeting to generate ideas for ways to lower energy bills, and especially electric bills, so the state can accelerate the energy transition and meet its climate goals in a way that is affordable and equitable.

Suggestions for reducing electricity bills fell into three broad categories: reducing the cost of providing electricity, shifting some of the remaining costs away from ratepayers, and changing the rate design to allocate costs more fairly.

Reducing the Costs to Provide Electricity
Many suggestions were offered to lower the costs for utilities to provide power to our homes and businesses.

- Reduce utility investor profits. Senior Scientist Mohit Chhabra of NRDC suggested that we could reduce the big investor-owned utilities’ rate of return on equity, the profit that they make when they invest in new capital. (4) PG&E currently earns a guaranteed 10.25%, more than the industry average of 9.5%. Can that return be reduced to give ratepayers some relief? Chhabra’s analysis shows a reduction to 7% would save ratepayers 5-7% on electric bills. I asked him about PG&E’s argument that the utility takes on more risk to be in California, so the rate of return should be higher. Chhabra observed that the return on equity is guaranteed, so it is risk-free. If there is risk beyond that, he suggested that PG&E should be specific about what it is, and then we can understand how to reduce it.

- Spend wildfire money more wisely. Michael Wara, a local wildfire expert and Stanford Research Scholar, said that we should more carefully evaluate the value of different types of wildfire mitigation and coordinate spending across the state. He pointed out that last year we spent $4.5B to fight fires and $8.5B to reduce ignition but only $1.5B to reduce spread. He believes it might well be cheaper to tolerate more ignition by further reducing the spread. (Undergrounding transmission is much more expensive than forest thinning.) Brad Heavner, Policy Director for California Solar and Storage, added that microgrids can be cheaper than undergrounding in low-density regions.

- Reduce peak energy use. Several speakers mentioned that we can reduce costs by shifting demand away from peak periods (e.g., 4-9pm). This can reduce transmission costs (lower peaks mean we need less grid capacity) and energy costs (off-peak energy tends to be cheaper).

- Reform net metering. Many speakers touched on the need to revisit the state’s solar subsidies, which could reduce electricity bills by 10% or more.

- State ownership of some assets. NRDC’s Chhabra analyzed the impact of the state’s taking ownership of the transmission system from PG&E. As shown in the diagram below, this would save on costs because taxes would be reduced and we would pay less to bond-holders than to share-holders. Overall it would save 4-6% on bills, but it is a “very heavy lift” per Chhabra. He suggests that it may make sense (and be much easier) to transfer just the highest-risk transmission assets. In addition, he says it could make a lot of sense for the state to take ownership of new kinds of transmission, such as the undersea cables needed for offshore wind.

Public ownership of transmission would trade off shareholder profits and income taxes for new public debt. Source: Mohit Chhabra of NRDC at the CPUC, 2022.

Get Funds from Beyond the Utility Bill
California has historically put some charges on the utility bill that might be better assessed elsewhere. Where can we find non-ratepayer funds to cover these costs?

- Cover some costs with state taxes. Many speakers suggested that “public purpose” programs that are currently on the electric bill, such as wildfire reduction and bill subsidies for lower-income households (CARE and FERA customers), are more appropriately covered by state taxes. NRDC’s Chhabra clarified that this change would largely benefit middle-income customers since these costs are already absent from CARE and FERA bills.

- Use federal funding. All agreed that we should use federal funding where possible to offset transmission and electrification costs (for example), mitigating the burden on ratepayers.

- Leverage private investment. Judicious use of incentives can spur private investment in our grid and in electrification more generally, which can help to lower the ratepayer share.

Change the Rate Design
Finally, when we have unavoidable costs that must be paid for by ratepayers, we can change who pays and how.

- Add a fixed charge. There was broad support for a fixed-charge on bills. This would better align the variable rates with the marginal cost of providing electricity and encourage electrification. UC Berkeley economist Meredith Fowlie recommends that the fixed-charge be larger for higher-income households, as shown below. This idea was popular among the speakers, though others suggested varying the charge by service size, connection cost, or even dwelling size.

An income-based fixed charge can allocate costs much more fairly than a fixed charge. Source: Meredith Fowlie of UC Berkeley at the CPUC, 2022

It is painful to imagine an additional $150+ monthly fixed charge on every electricity bill, even for higher-income households. I asked Chhabra if he’s worried about grid defection beyond a certain point, and he said that he hopes to study that. He did observe that it’s a pretty complex endeavor to go off-grid while also acknowledging that $150/month seems high. He expects the regulators and lawmakers to work out what level of charge is appropriate, somewhere between $10 and $150.

- Deploy aggressive time-of-use rates and demand-response incentives. As mentioned above, discounted off-peak rates and incentives for further reducing demand at times of particularly high use will reduce transmission and energy costs by reducing peak usage.

All these ideas and more were discussed at the CPUC’s meeting. At the end of the day, there is no silver bullet, “no one obvious villain”, as Chhabra puts it, for reducing electricity bills. Chhabra continued: “The rates we have today are the compounding impact of 20 years of decisions. Our rates have always been high because of California’s wide geography (high costs) and temperate weather (low usage).” His analysis shows that even when multiple policies are stacked, the cumulative effect is still only about 25% (from $0.27 to $0.20).

If we were to remove CARE and Wildfire Fund costs from our bills, move transmission ownership to the state, reduce return on equity to 7%, and levy a $20/mo fixed charge, rates would decrease from $0.27 to $0.20. Source: Mohit Chhabra of NRDC at the CPUC, 2022.

Wara points out that rates are so high in part because it is easier to raise rates than it is to raise taxes. Many of the techniques for reducing rates will require the California legislature to intervene. (5) That may make it hard to move quickly, although Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Chair of the Utilities and Energy Committee, spoke at the meeting and was very supportive of making energy bills more affordable. (6)

California’s three goals of reducing emissions (e.g., electrifying cars and buildings), adapting to climate change (e.g., hardening our grid to wildfires), and transitioning affordably and equitably are imperative. But doing all three at the same time is not easy. I hope that the CPUC’s discussion and planning process will shake out some of the best ideas and push them through our layers of bureaucracy soon without much distortion.

So, is it true that our electricity rates will be going down? Maybe! Hopefully! If you want to help to make that happen, you can add your comment here.

Notes and References
1. For Palo Alto readers, the city has its own utility and its own prices. Electricity rates are much lower than for the three big investor-owned utilities shown, and for the local community choice agencies like Peninsula Clean Energy, Silicon Valley Clean Energy, and East Bay Community Energy that base their rates off of PG&E rates. And Palo Alto’s rates have remained more steady. But Palo Alto’s utility is subject to many of the same forces and has seen steadily increasing transmission costs over the last several years.

2. One of my favorite quotes from Toney’s pointed speech to the commissioners: “Skyrocketing rates don’t just happen by themselves! Skyrocketing rates happen because They Are Approved By The Commission.” Toney’s ideas aren’t uniformly popular, but he is clearly a passionate advocate for more affordable rates for lower-income households.

3. This chart does not reflect any ability to defray additional capital costs of fuel switching with lower operating costs. That would further lower the break-even electricity rate.

4. California’s regulations are designed so that utilities make money from their capital investments and not from their operating expenses (e.g., the daily cost of providing power). So they do not earn more money if customers use more electricity, except to the extent that requires additional grid buildout.

5. The CPUC can do some things on its own (e.g., require aggressive time-of-use rates), but not others (e.g., moving wildfire costs from the utility bill to the tax bill). Even establishing a fixed charge over $10 requires legislature approval.

6. Several speakers pointed out that water and broadband/internet also need to be affordable, but that was not in scope for this discussion.

Innovative Music + Art + Nature Performance

Local non-profit horn quartet Quadre will be performing an environment-theme concert, Nature Calling for Harmony, on March 27. It will be a feast for the eyes and ears with five premieres and the award-winning art of Harumo Sato centered around nature. The trailer for the concert is here. The concert will be at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 5pm. Tickets are available here.

Current Climate Data (January 2022)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard

Comment Guidelines
I hope that your contributions will be an important part of this blog. To keep the discussion productive, please adhere to these guidelines or your comment may be moderated:
- Avoid disrespectful, disparaging, snide, angry, or ad hominem comments.
- Stay fact-based and refer to reputable sources.
- Stay on topic.
- In general, maintain this as a welcoming space for all readers.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by James Renfro, a resident of another community,
on Mar 6, 2022 at 8:30 am

James Renfro is a registered user.

This concern over increased electricity bills (despite various austerity measures on the part of residential consumers) has some believing that the additional revenues are being used to cover lawsuits stemming from negligence and damages on the part of PG&E and SDGE.

This would not surprise me.

Posted by KOhlson, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 6, 2022 at 11:01 am

KOhlson is a registered user.

Maybe I am missing something. Several of the solutions offered at the CPUC meeting were the complete opposite of reducing the rate, including higher fixed fees, supplementing electricity prices through indirect revenues streams (taxes, which rate payers still pay), and shifting peak demand - which hasn't really done that so far. Of course, connecting a battery at home can shift peak demand, but then there's reducing the NEM benefit.
None of these seem like the sort of solution that would reduce the cost of electricity by 50%, as noted in the second chart, above.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 6, 2022 at 6:26 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Thanks for the comments :) A few thoughts...

@James, FWIW, it *would* surprise me. Utilities *are not allowed* to make profits from customer usage (rate income). That is a hard and fast rule for utilities in many states, including California. They make profits from their capital investments (which is why state ownership of transmission would be a big bad deal for them). If they made money from customer usage, then they would be very incentivized to encourage customers to use more electricity and gas. They do the opposite because they *do* get incentives for customer efficiency, at least in California. I get that it's not how most people think utilities operate!

@KOhlson. Great question. A couple of things.

First of all, rates (cents/kWh) are different from bills (total $ paid), which factor in usage. Rates in California have always been high, in part because the geography is so spread out so it is just more expensive to deliver the energy, and partly because we tend to pack various fees into the rates. Despite that, bills have always been low, partly because of strong building codes and partly because of temperate weather.

But over the last few years, as rates have gotten really high, bills have also gotten high. People are having to choose between health care, housing, or utilities. Arrearages up to $2 billion is extremely high.

The CPUC cares about the total bill amount because of affordability (so things like energy efficiency for low-income households can help). But they also care about the rates themselves because of electrification. (Low electricity rates make it much easier to switch from gas to electric.)

Some of these suggestions tackle both, and some only tackle rates.

Regarding shifting costs to tax-payers instead of bill-payers, the reason to do that is because taxes are allocated differently than energy bills -- the wealthy will generally pay more. That may not be what you want to hear, but it is an outcome that the CPUC thinks would improve affordability, which is bill size relative to income. Electricity bills are so flat across income levels that they are much more regressive even than sales taxes or gas taxes. They quickly become unaffordable.

The fixed charge makes rates cheaper (fewer cents per kWh), but bills will be either more expensive or less expensive for various groups of people, depending on how the fixed charge is allocated.

California is very concerned that the energy transition be equitable, that the low-income households not be the last left behind on expensive and polluting gas appliances. Affordable electric bills are instrumental to making that happen.


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Mar 6, 2022 at 8:46 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

What do I think? There's not much we can do about rates, but we can certainly control our usage. While others complain about "higher rates," our PG&E is lower and lower every month. We take advantage of our smart meter and continue to save money and energy every month. Energy usage is like our weight. We are what we eat, and we get billed for what we use. It really is that simple.

Posted by Denny Lange, a resident of another community,
on Mar 7, 2022 at 7:26 am

Denny Lange is a registered user.

"Utilities *are not allowed* to make profits from customer usage (rate income). That is a hard and fast rule for utilities in many states, including California."

Until they got caught, how did Enron manage to pull this off?

And how did California fall prey to this
profititeering scheme during the Gray Davis administration?

Wasn't anyone paying attention?

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 7, 2022 at 11:20 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Denny: OMG, Enron, what a mess. To be clear, though, the utilities were not the cause of that. In fact, PG&E filed for bankruptcy as a result and I think SCE almost did. The amount the utilities could charge customers was capped, but the wholesale rates skyrocketed due to market manipulation by energy traders (Enron).

My understanding of what happened...
1. In the 1990's, Enron lobbied long and hard for energy markets to be deregulated. They claimed customers would save money, and they knew that they also stood to make a killing.

2. They influenced the design of those markets. In California, for example, energy generators *had* to go through a middleman rather than selling direct to the market.

3. The law setting up the markets was pretty complicated and not well understood. The law passed largely before Gray Davis got into office. But it started operating under him in 1998.

4. In the first two years, the energy traders got more aggressive with their market manipulation. They would buy energy at low prices, sell it out of state, then import it back at very high prices when CA was in need. They would falsely oversubscribe power lines so that the state had to pay "decongestion fees". They would keep plants from generating power to artificially raise prices.

Here is an actual recorded conversation between an Enron employee (Bill) and an employee of a power generator (Rich).

Bill: "Ah, we want you guys to get a little creative, and come up with a reason to go down. Anything you want to do over there? Any cleaning, anything like that?"

Rich: "OK, so we're just comin' down for some maintenance, like a forced outage type thing?"

Bill: "I think that's a good plan, Rich.... I knew I could count on you."

5. Even when people figured out what was going on, the agency responsible for wholesale markets (FERC) was reluctant to step in.

6. The utilities' credit rating got so bad that they couldn't even buy power for their customers. The state had to do it for a while.

Good grief.

Since then changes have been made to market design, transparency, enforcement, etc. Some people still believe that energy markets are a terrible idea, and we should go back to vertically structured utilities. But at least we haven't seen something like that since.

What we still do see, in a big way in California, is industry lobbying to get policies that will make them money. Enron did that, and the markets proved deeply flawed. The gas industry did it with cap-and-trade, which has proven very ineffective at reducing emissions because there are so many allowances floating around. And the solar industry is doing it now with net metering reform. That is their right, but we need to be aware of it.

I heard a speaker talking about lessons learned from Enron, and she said that it's critical that advocates for ratepayers be given adequate resources and an adequate voice, because they otherwise cannot compete with the moneyed interests that have the time and wherewithal and motivation to be powerful voices to our commissions. During the meeting this blog post discusses, a commissioner asked the three big utilities: "What would be a really good idea for reducing electricity rates that might not work out so well for you?" And the answer was: crickets. Other people will have to generate and promote those ideas.

Thanks for the question!

Posted by Mary Dateo, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Mar 7, 2022 at 1:08 pm

Mary Dateo is a registered user.

Your 1st note is very intriguing. Why is it that Palo Alto's utility's electric rates are so much lower than those of PGE?

Posted by SRB, a resident of Mountain View,
on Mar 7, 2022 at 5:00 pm

SRB is a registered user.

The latest PG&E increase (>10% - March 1,2022) was largely because of increased generation costs because PG&E is still relying on some amount of natural gas.

CCAs (SVCE , PCE..) all coopted PG&E's increase not to cover higher generation costs but largely because they could grab more revenue while PG&E got all the attention as the greedy vilain.

In contrast, kudos to Palo Alto Utilities for not using every opportunity to milk their customers.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 7, 2022 at 7:51 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Mary and @SRB ask great questions, namely (a) why are municipal utility rates generally lower than PG&E and (b) Why are many CCA rates tied to those of PG&E?

Palo Alto and Santa Clara both have municipal utilities. (The latter is Silicon Valley Power.) And both have much lower rates than PG&E. Sacramento is another example. So is LA. Rates are lower for a few reasons: they don't pay investor profits; they have a more favorable tax structure; they often have a cheaper set of customers (e.g., few rural customers and/or more daytime-power-using companies); and I think they are not subject to many of the fees that CPUC-regulated utilities are. (These utilities are only lightly regulated by the CPUC.) Customers may also be more likely to pay their bills (e.g., Silicon Valley Power has lots of big data warehouses).

The CCA's (e.g., PCE, SVCE, EBCE) are a different story. They can differ from PG&E (or SCE or SDG&E) only on the generation component of the bill, which is only about a third of the bill. And they save only a portion of that cost. So it's hard for them to be much cheaper, since they can't save on (say) transmission and distribution. They also have to pay fees to PG&E to cover the investments that PG&E made when that customer came on board.

The big advantage of the CCAs is that they are local, so control is local and all of the money goes straight back into the community.

FWIW, here is a graphic showing PG&E's costs (Source)

Does this help?

Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Mar 7, 2022 at 8:32 pm

Paly Grad is a registered user.

Thank you for the PG&E graph. I'm curious about what is included in Shareholder Returns? PG&E does not pay stock dividends anymore.

Posted by SRB, a resident of St. Francis Acres,
on Mar 7, 2022 at 8:47 pm

SRB is a registered user.

@Sherry Listgarten - I like the fact that CCA are local for their programs.

However, so far they tend to view the rates as taxes. i.e. not driven by actual costs (and reasonable margins) but mostly driven by the programs they want to fund.

Also they often engage in deceiving communications. When announcing the new March 1 rates, SVCE didn't share the amount of the increase and tried to whitewash it by bragging their rates would "remain" 1% cheaper than PG&E.

How deceiving?

SVCE portion of a typical monthly electric bill:

November 2021
PG&E ADDED $23.61

March 1 2022
PG&E ADDED $9.69

Posted by CyberVoter, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Mar 8, 2022 at 12:32 pm

CyberVoter is a registered user.

What is being missed in all of these is that utilities are just too high in CA! There is no geographical or weather reason that our rates are consistently (both electricity & natural gas) 2 to 3+ times that residential rates in other parts of the country!

The "fish stinks from the head"! In this case it is the CA PUC and the ruling CA Party/Governor. As long as we rate payers keep quiet & write checks, this will continue. Other than Gov't regulations & mandated programs, our rates should match the rest of the country. We to change the entire direction of the PUC.

If you want to have your friends outside of CA (& even outside the Bay Area) feel sorry for you, jut compare all your utility charges! They will be shocked!

Please vote for change! (BTW, have you looked at CA gasoline prices compared to other states as well?)

Posted by Candace, a resident of another community,
on Mar 8, 2022 at 1:33 pm

Candace is a registered user.

California needs a gas tax to disincentivize its use. We have to rip up our methane leaking transmission lines. The tax can be used to subsidize the electrical changeover and while that is going on we can take over the utilities again and figure out how to lower rates.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 8, 2022 at 4:09 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Our Palo Alto Utilities rates skyrocketed recently. I don't know if the meter readers made a mistake, but our bill nearly doubled (without much difference in usage).

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 8, 2022 at 7:21 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@PalyGrad: Great question! Maybe he was thinking of next year? (They are on track to pay out dividends next year, I think.) Or maybe it's historical? You can email him if you want to find out, just see the deck for contact info.

@SRB, @Nayeli: I'm sorry :( I'd be happy to look at your bills to see if I can see anything. Sometimes it's weird. For example, my mom was bummed that their bill went up after getting a HPWH. But I looked and saw that it was the *gas* that went up, and then she figured out it was colder weather.

@Candace: Or a carbon price more generally? One thing is that gas prices are already super high, but unfortunately the profits will go mainly to the domestic oil and gas producers afaict. Not so helpful for decarbonizing. I wonder if we'll have a big push on efficiency and/or electrification, as Europe is doing. Probably not, but I can hope!

Posted by SRB, a resident of St. Francis Acres,
on Mar 8, 2022 at 8:19 pm

SRB is a registered user.

@Sherry Listgarten

It's not hard to assess the SVCE portion of the cost increase by comparing

the new rates in a typical Electric bill

Web Link

and the old rates in a typical electric bill: Link

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 8, 2022 at 9:37 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"@James, FWIW, it *would* surprise me. Utilities *are not allowed* to make profits from customer usage (rate income). That is a hard and fast rule for utilities in many states, including California. They make profits from their capital investments (which is why state ownership of transmission would be a big bad deal for them)."

How can you say that when PAU has been over-charging us $20,000,000 each and every year to siphon money from our pockets into the General Fund. Not only are they profiting, a judge found them guilty and ordered PAU to pay us back the money but now the city attorney, outside attorneys and city are fighting that ruling, going so far as to try to link the business tax to the right to continue this larcenous practice.

Enough already.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 9, 2022 at 7:42 am

Bystander is a registered user.

According to Palo Alto Online, the City now admits the power grid is old and cannot cope with additional usage.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 9, 2022 at 2:22 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@SRB: Thanks, that is a great use of the internet archives! What I see from the links you shared is that "electric generation" went from about $30 or $35 to $65, and the PG&E fees dropped (!) from $24 to $10. I agree 100% with your question about this, and with your frustration about the seeming lack of transparency and the obscuring price-tie to PG&E. I listened to a meeting once in which the CCA said they were glad for the extra cushion that PG&E rates were giving them that year because they had some more expensive investments in long-term storage (or similar) coming up.

Let me follow up on this to see if I can learn more about this, and also to see where the public documents are that explain the pricing.

Thanks very much for the question/observation.

@Online: You may have mentioned the lawsuit before? :) My response was, and still is, that this is common practice for municipal utilities because it mimics what the private ones do, namely reimburse the city for their investment in the utility and their use of streets, etc. Palo Alto didn't make it up. You can read more about it here. You may still hate it (!!) and hate our utility (!!), but (a) be glad you don't live in PG&E territory, which is much less beneficial to its local communities, and (b) the city is appealing because this would impact lots of other municipal utilities as well, and starve the public services that depend on those funds. Should be interesting.

@Bystander: Yes, the distribution lines need updating, especially with the acceleration of electrification we are seeing and the move away from very expensive and polluting gas cars. It is great that City Council is aware of this and on board with it.

Thanks for all the comments, they are really fun to read and the blog is much better with them!

P.S. I don't know if this makes you feel better or worse, but my bill from Palo Alto this month had *no* electricity or gas usage recorded because for some reason they ignored the meter pictures that I send them each month so I can keep my gates locked. I have asked them twice to fix it, but have heard nothing, and so I fear I'm in for a massive Tier 2 bill next month. I will keep pinging them, oh joy.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 9, 2022 at 5:07 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Sherry, yes I bring this up often because a judge ruled that the practice is illegal and I resent having to fund the city's appeal AND their trying to tie approval of the practice of overcharging us to the much-needed business tax.

Have you ever protested a rate increase? I have. Guess how many of us in a city of roughly 66,000 have to protest the increase via a very complicated mutli-step process!

If you're not disgusted by the answer, you should be.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 9, 2022 at 7:12 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Online: Wait, what's the answer??

You know, I've been wondering who is funding the appeal. Do you know that it's the city? I wouldn't be surprised if some of it is funded by something like the American Public Power Association or the California Municipal Utilities Association. I don't know, though, and I'm not a real journalist, so I don't know how to find out :(

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 9, 2022 at 7:39 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

12,000 people have to jump through multiple hoops to register their opposition to each rate increase! That's outrageous, esp. since there's something like 28,000 households and we know how tough it is to get people's attention on local issues.

Yes, it's the city. If you write to the city attorney, she refers questions to the outside attorneys in San Diego who sort of laugh at her reasoning in their responses. The other local paper has done a good job of covering this.

Also do a search here on the link between supporting the business tax AND the continued practice of overcharging us. It's a rigged game and we're the losers because there's no accountability.

Posted by Raymond , a resident of Monta Loma,
on Mar 9, 2022 at 10:08 pm

Raymond is a registered user.

Users should pay for what they use.
and for transmission to their locations.
For reliability, pay more.
For long-term reliability and reducing carbon, go nuclear.
To prevent wildfires, pay more.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 11, 2022 at 12:37 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Raymond, as reasonable as that may sound -- pay for what you use -- I think many don't agree, seeing utilities like electricity, gas, and water and even broadband as more essentials, something the government should provide. Think about transportation. Everyone pays for roads and buses. Sure the bus fees and gas taxes pay some, but mostly everyone pays. Same for schools. And there is the cost of the energy transition on top of that. I think we are going to end up moving a bunch of these costs into taxes, in order to keep rates affordable. I don't see another way.

BTW, on the saga of my utility bill, where I apparently used zero electricity and gas last month, the utility now says that the picture I sent them is of the water meter and not the gas meter. Right. I mean, you'd think I'd know, especially since I've sent it in every month for the last several years. *sigh*

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Mar 11, 2022 at 5:27 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The budget assigned to the Utility Company for PA needs to be re-evaluated. In my area we recently had a problem with redwood tree limbs that were going through the lower wires, and the upper part of the trees were looming over the high wires. The trees were growing and spreading all over the place. The city did not have the manpower and expertise to remove the limbs since they were in the wires so a private company had to be called at great expense.

The power grid in this city is in the wires that are conducting both electrical energy and communication devices - AT&T, Comcast. We need more budget assigned to have fully educated crews who can keep the wire grid clear of obstacles - all type of obstacles. More manpower, and more utility trucks that can work high wire corrections.

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Burning just one "old style" light bulb can cost $150 or more per year
By Sherry Listgarten | 12 comments | 3,024 views

Banning the public from PA City Hall
By Diana Diamond | 26 comments | 2,177 views

Pacifica’s first brewery closes its doors
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 1,920 views

Holiday Fun in San Francisco- Take the Walking Tour for An Evening of Sparkle!
By Laura Stec | 10 comments | 1,511 views

Premiere! “I Do I Don’t: How to build a better marriage” – Here, a page/weekday
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,446 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 30 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away almost $10 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.