I love that the California Public Utilities Commission is coming to Bakersfield in August, after the second-hottest July on record, to hold a hearing about how PG&E should spread the pain of its latest rate increase.

Summer is the perfect time to ask Bakersfieldians what we think about energy costs.

Yes, folks, the PUC will have representatives here Monday for two public comment sessions regarding who should pay how much of the $1.5 billion (2017-19) raise PG&E got earlier this year. 

The size of the rate increase “pie” is set, the PUC is just trying to work out how big a slice it's going to cram down our throats.

Which brings me back to "baseline allotments," something I've written about for years now.

The concept of baseline energy was concocted in the 1980s when the Legislature directed the PUC to create tiered rates as a means to encourage energy conservation.

The idea is consumers won't use as much electricity in order to stay in lower-cost tiers.

The lowest tier is considered baseline energy.

The amount of baseline is supposed to be between 50 percent and 60 percent of the average amount of energy used by consumers in each of PG&E’s nine territories.

Anyhow, in Kern County we are allotted about 520 kilowatt-hours, or kWh, per month in summer, which runs from May through October.

We’re charged about 20 cents per kWh within the baseline amount.

The next tier, which is up to 400 percent above baseline, is charged at nearly 30 cents per kWh.

The third tier is 40 cents per kWh for anything greater than 400 percent over baseline.

In Kern County during summer, most people blow past baseline like it’s standing still.

I think the baseline allotment should be increased for areas with such harsh summers.

There are a couple of ways to do this.

1. Reduce summer months to June through September.

May and October are usually pretty temperate. Including them in the calculation drives down the “average use” amount on which baseline is calculated.

2. Exclude solar homes from the average-use calculation.

I wrote about this last October and it still galls me.

Homes equipped with solar panels use little to no energy.

Including them in the calculation of “average use” is like including rocks.

The more solar homes in an area, the less energy is used, driving down the baseline allotment and increasing costs for those of us who can’t afford solar.

It’s unfair and needs to change. (See sidebar for info about a bill in the state Senate that would do just that.)

These are two small but important issues for residential customers to bring to the PUC’s attention in our own defense.

There are other, bigger, issues that need to be tackled, including rattling the Kern County Board of Supervisors to look at “community choice aggregation.”

That’s where the county can choose to buy its electricity from a generator other than PG&E but still use the utility’s distribution lines.

Other counties have done it and pay up to 32 percent less on generation costs.

Since generation costs make up more than 40 percent of our bills, that could be substantial.

But, as I said, that’s another issue for another time.

For now, all we can hope for is a little relief on baseline allotments.

A dark corner of my heart wishes the City of Bakersfield would turn off the A/C during the PUC’s meeting Monday to show commissioners what it’s really like to try and live within our baseline allotments.

But then no one would stick around for the meeting.

* This column was corrected in regards to tier 2 charges.

Contact Californian columnist Lois Henry at 661-395-7373 or lhenry@bakersfield.com. Her work appears on Sundays and Wednesdays; the views expressed are her own.

(6) comments

Erik the Beard

I moved out of that rotten hole over a year ago to Colorado. The days of $1200 energy bills are long gone. I pay 12 cents per kwhr used for as many as I use. My rate never goes up if I use more or less in a month.

In addition....
I can buy a gun and take it home with me the same day. I don't have to submit a background check to buy a limited amount of ammo. The air is cleaner and I don't have to have my vehicles smog checked. Taxes are lower. Classes are smaller. Education is better. People are friendlier. More community activities. I have never been asked to espeaké español. My second grader did not get taught in school why Timmy has two daddy's and why Mary has two mommy's. I can carry my 1911 on my hip if I want. Wildlife in abundance for viewing/hunting pleasure along with the fishing/camping/hiking. Unemployment sitting around 2.5%. Can't swing a dead cat without hitting a help wanted sign.

If you have a family or are just sick of communist tactics, I reccomend leaving. Best move I've ever made for my family. Leave the liberal politics behind and live free for once.

Shwaine

Your numbers for PG&E rates are a little stale Lois. As of March 1st of this year, Tier 1 pays nearly $0.20/kWh and Tier 2 pays a bit over $0.27/kWh. Tier 3 is still about $0.40/kWh. Also, Tier 2 now covers up to 400% of baseline. In a 30 day month, you wouldn't jump to Tier 3 until you consume over 2015kWh.

This is by no means a defense of those rates, as I find them ridiculously high even with the March 1st adjustments. But the information is freely available on PG&E's page and searchable in under a minute. It's very quick research to do before writing such an article.

And I also find it ridiculous that they include solar homes in the baseline calculations. Hopefully, the introduced state bill will sale through without getting caught in a political quagmire.

Nevermind

After PG&E kills people ,do you expect them to pick up the tab for their failures when they can simply raise the rates? I set my thermostat at 76 degrees, and still sweat my way to a 700 dollar a month bill. Tiers are fair right? People have differing amounts of people in their household. Even retirees are penalized because they are at home all day. When will reason and not greed come into play? Never.

adbmlb

If the PUC would stop the subsidising of the big city energy rates by penalizing the Valley customers, it would greatly help we Valley customers.

Brian

Hey Lois, why don't you look into the fact that the blowhard Nancy pelosi home is in San Francisco, Diane Feinstein and the very rude Karbala Harris. Could it b the reason pg&e keeps the baseline at the current level so nancys constituents pay the least and get subsidized by the red leaning Central Valley. Just asking.

Gakozy

I strongly urge everyone to check into a solar system lease.
Last December I checked with a number companies and decided on Sun Solar. Their panels produce considerably more power than the others. This was important for me because of my small house and my mother's house because she had problems with tree shade in large areas.
I always thought that buying cells was the only way to make solar practical. That is not true for me or a great many others especially retired people who have little need for a tax credit. On a lease I have no worries. No damage worries, breakdown worries and no production worries. I sized my system so that it will produce in excess of my usage and sun solar guarantees that production. I only used 127kwhs on my last statement ending August, 11th. Last year for the same period I used over 1900kwhs. During these last 8 months I have over produced 2800 kwhs. That means PGE currently owes me apx. the equivalent of 2 months of my lease payment.
If I do decide to cell my home. If a person qualifies to purchase my home, sun solar will automatically approve the buyer for the solar lease
If you can pay cash for solar cells and also use the tax credits. A purchase may be better. But not many can do that
By the way four homes that my families own have solar cells and they all have had great savings and experience.

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