State regulators approved on Thursday a new set of exit fees that would be imposed on customers who defect from utility monopolies and obtain their electricity from community-based providers, but the plan also was criticized as one that’s too favorable to power behemoths such as PG&E.
The Public Utilities Commission voted 5-0 to launch a plan designed to ensure that those who remain PG&E customers don’t pay costs the utility incurred on behalf of ratepayers who left the company to become customers of an alternative energy provider — and that departing customers aren’t saddled with costs that were not incurred on their behalf. The state agency approved a plan that was crafted by PUC Commissioner Carla Peterman.
A growing number of alternative energy providers have sprouted in California in recent years, frequently offering consumers electricity derived from green energy sources and tapping into a market for people who want to ditch their current utility company.
“The PUC decision will have the counterproductive effect of forcing San Jose and cities throughout the state to reduce the proportion of greenhouse gas-free electricity in their supply portfolio, undermining the state’s ambitious climate goals,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said Thursday in an interview with this news organization.
People who opt to stay with PG&E and other big power providers could see small declines in their monthly bills. However, it appears likely that customers of alternative providers of electricity, also known as community choice aggregators, or CCAs, will endure higher bills after they leave monopoly utilities such as PG&E.
“We knew this was going to be controversial,” Commissioner Peterman said just before the PUC voted. “Costs will go up for some customers and costs will go down for others. That couldn’t be avoided.”
During 2019, residential customers living in PG&E’s service territory who are served by a CCA could experience a 1.68 percent increase in their monthly bills compared with 2018, Peterman stated during her comments ahead of the vote.
“Yes there is a range of impacts, but we think these impacts are reasonable,” Peterman said.
San Francisco-based PG&E said it was still reviewing the PUC action.
“PG&E is pleased by the decision,” said Lynsey Paulo, a PG&E spokeswoman.
However, some members of the public who commented before the PUC’s vote warned the commission that the plan fashioned by Peterman will hurt efforts to offer more clean energy, make it too costly for people to shift to community-based alternatives for providing electricity, and is too favorable to PG&E and other power monopolies.
Plus, the state agency’s decision Thursday might harm small merchants, Mayor Liccardo warned.
“The PUC plan will drive up costs on small businesses,” Liccardo said. “Future community choice energy programs may exclude mom and pop businesses altogether.”
Want to ditch PG&E? Customers face new fees for alternatives, by George Avalos, Chico Enterprise-Record, October 11, 2018.