Still on the Fence About Solar? Sweeping Changes Sought for Electricity Bills


For most Californians, electricity could soon cost different amounts at different times of day.

And their utility bills could rise as a result.

California energy regulators have proposed a set of sweeping changes to the way most of the state’s residents pay for power. The current system, in which electricity prices are based on the amount used, would be fundamentally altered by 2018, under the proposal issued this week by the California Public Utilities Commission.

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Standard residential rates would vary by time of use, encouraging Californians to conserve during afternoons when demand on the state’s power grid hits its peak. State officials and energy economists have long pursued the idea, seeing it as a way to avoid building more power plants.

“The system is designed for the absolute maximum demand – and then some,” said James Fine, senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “Having less demand for energy at those times really saves the system a lot of money.”

Under the commission’s proposal, homeowners and renters who prefer to stick with flat rates would still have that option. But the flat rates would change, with people using the least electricity paying more than they do today, while people who use the most would pay less.

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