Saturday, July 22, 2006

"This is Insane"

Many of us here in California received a nasty surprise when our electric bills arrived last week, thanks to rate increases that disproportionately penalize the heaviest residential users.

We had already been carefully watching our electricity consumption, trying to offset the higher cost of gasoline in our budget, so it was quite a shock to receive a bill that was over $100 higher than our all-time highest bill.

Because of the way the increase was structured, once you hit a certain usage rate, you get zapped. If you have a family of six, as we do, you're almost certain to be affected by the higher rate.

An even bigger shock came in today's news: the rates are going up even more in August, and the increase is retroactive to last January 1st. The retroactive part particularly troubles me -- how can they rebill us for something for which we already paid? It's hard to imagine that's legal. Edison, in its "kindness," is going to spread the retroactive portion of the bill out over the next year.

It was approximately 104 degrees in our city today, but we were afraid to turn on our air conditioner, having no idea what further costs to expect with the additional (and retroactive) increase next month. We finally caved in and turned it on at 4:00 p.m. We tried to compensate by only turning on a couple of lights tonight. We pretended we were camping, but this could get old really fast.

It's absurd that a middle-class family, already carefully managing air conditioning use and being careful to switch off lights, should face several hundred dollars for a single month's electric bill.

Here we are years after the rolling blackouts, and California still hasn't increased electricity production so that there's plenty to go around at reasonable prices. I'm a fourth-generation Californian, but leaving the state looks better all the time...


Blogger jau said...

Wow. This must be a public service change on both coasts. The NY public service commission just approved our electric company to have a 30% rate hike this year, next year and the year after that. We already pay the highest in the country, second only to you guys. Their favorite trick is to tack on an "access fee" now and then. Oh no, they say, they're not over-charging. But the access fee one time was three times the bill, so I owed $800 and my neighbor owed $1500. For ONE month. Something is very much amiss.

6:25 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Laura- You are always welcome to come and live in the midwest... what a wonderful neighbor you would be...

7:12 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you both for the commiseration! (Sorry to hear about that $800 bill!)

I was mulling it more and it seems as though Edison is almost intentionally penalizing a family that is home during the makes sense that we would pay proportionally more than our neighbor, a single lady who is away at work during the day, in terms of being charged for more hours. That's completely rational. But to also hit us with triple the charges per kilowatt hour after a certain usage level, simply because a mom and kids are home during the day using electricity, is crazy. I do laundry for six people, she does it for one. I run two computers during the day as we use them homeschooling. So she is charged a lower rate per hour based on the fact she doesn't use nearly as much during the month as we do? Who okayed that? I would think low-income families are really struggling, unless they are getting some kind of subsidy on their bills.

Oh well, it's good to have a blog to vent on now and again. :) Best wishes, Laura

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think our rates are going up also. :-( But as Cathy said, move out here! It's probably a bit cheaper...and I'm here--we could go to movies together and hang out. ;-) However, we probably have higher gas rates in the winter.

10:16 AM  
Blogger jau said...

Your neighbor is charged a lower fee because she's away all day???? I'm very jealous. I'm away all day, 75 miles away as a matter of fact, so my refrigerator and AC pay for empty space. Our provider charges whatever max it can, clearly. -- Is the midwest really cheaper for utilities?

6:48 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

"Your neighbor is charged a lower fee because she's away all day????"

Yes, it's kind of convoluted...she's charged a lower rate per kilowatt hour for a percentage of the electricity she does use, because she's considered a "low user." They're charging "high users" -- such as people who are home running a/c and computers during the day -- triple the rates once your usage hits a certain point. Edison has actually said they're trying to reward low users and force high users to conserve, but they're not considering the variables within each household, and it feels like they're trying to roll some of us back into the electricity "dark ages"...

It would be interesting to compare what's being paid (and how it's charged) in different regions.

Best wishes, Laura

8:59 AM  

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