Come to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Rate Design Forum and tell them our tax dollars should not subsidize natural gas, and that the rate structure should incentivize solar and energy efficiency. The "Forum" is not really a forum; it's a presentation of the CPUC's new rates. However, it is still an opportunity to address the CPUC on key issues regarding the residential rate structure, and the CPUC's recent failure to make reforms to an energy incentive program funded by ratepayer dollars.
The new residential rate structure, adopted in 2015, and which will take effect in 2017, compresses the rate "tiers" from four to two, meaning that rates go up less steeply for customers using more energy. The "flatter" rate tiers undermine the incentive for customers to pursue energy efficiency or distributed generation, such as solar, that would reduce their energy consumption. However the transition to "time of use" rates, through which customers pay more for energy in summer afternoons and less at times of the day when electricity demand is lower, will help better align customer costs with the financial and environmental costs of supplying energy. This article from GreenTech Media provides good background on the rate structure changes adopted last year.
At their meeting last Thursday, CPUC enacted a package of weak "reforms" to an energy incentive program that is paid for by California ratepayers, called the "Self Generation Incentive Program" (SGIP). By statue, SGIP is intended to incentivize distributed generation technologies that reduce load on the electric grid, and the CPUC has applied a greenhouse gas emissions test to screen eligible technologies. However, a disproportionate share of SGIP's incentive dollars have gone to one maker of dirty natural gas fuel cells, which meet the weak emissions threshold set by CPUC. Subsidizing fossil fuels is at odds with California's ambitious climate goals, and should not continue.
Possible Questions to Ask
1. I understand Self-Generation Incentive Program provides subsidies for decentralized electricity generation and storage projects that help reduce greenhouse gases. If that's the goal, why are most of the subsidies going to a company that produces natural gas fuel cells? Doesn't that mean taxpayer money is going to use of a fossil fuel, instead of clean energy?
3. How will the new two-tiered rate structure and the minimum bill affect adoption of energy efficiency and distributed generation?
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