This year, PG&E customers will get hit with a whopping 8% rate increase. That’s over six times the rate of inflation in one year alone.
Not including this year’s budget-busting rate spike, PG&E rates have steadily increased 140% since 2000, nearly three times the rate of inflation (52%) over the last twenty years. Link to data
The utilities’ favorite scapegoat: rooftop solar users.
To deflect the blame away from themselves, PG&E and the other utilities often scapegoat rooftop solar users, who are doing the right thing by generating local power in their community.
PG&E’s blame game is bunk, and here’s why.
Utilities: “More power lines, more profit”
If you ever want to understand why the utilities do what they do, remember this: power lines are how utilities make their profit.
Here’s the utility profit-making playbook:
- Lobby state energy officials at the CA Public Utilities Commission to allow them to build the biggest and most expensive transmission line system possible.
- Pass those costs onto ratepayers, with a sweet, state-mandated profit on top.
- Spend as little money as possible to maintain those power lines.
- Pocket the cash.
- Lather, rinse, repeat.
Here’s the result, from the Clean Coalition:
With all this power line spending, why do we have power outages?
Exactly. Bigger doesn’t mean better. With more wildfire and extreme weather threats, our over-reliance on long-distance power lines is a vulnerability, not a strength.
Enter rooftop solar and battery storage.
Utilities: “Power lines? What power lines?”
Rooftop solar and battery storage doesn’t rely on long-distance power lines. That’s an inconvenient fact for the utilities. So they try to cover it up. See this chart from the Clean Coalition. The chart of the left is how utilities represent rooftop solar vs. far-away solar farms. The chart on the right is the truth.
More rooftop solar = lower costs for everyone
This is the truth that the utilities hate. Rooftop solar helps people use the grid less, reducing maintenance and investment costs, saving all ratepayers money: $2.6 billion in reduced power line maintenance costs in 2018 alone.
The savings to all consumers, whether they have solar or not, could be huge if we continue growing rooftop solar. A recent, in-depth study shows that maximizing rooftop solar will help save American consumers $473 billion in electricity costs over the next thirty years.
Less rooftop solar = higher costs for everyone
Conversely, doubling down on large-scale renewable energy (with its resulting massive power line needs) will cost American consumers $385 billion over the same time period.
The truth won’t stop utilities from attacking rooftop solar
Undaunted by the facts and driven solely by the desire to protect their profit-making monopoly, utilities have declared war on rooftop solar and battery storage.
The utilities’ #1 target is net metering. That’s the cornerstone of rooftop solar in California. It’s what allows solar users to share their extra solar with the neighbors for a bill credit. Utilities want to gut it. And they will make whatever argument they can to get the job done.
Make your voice heard
To be clear, we need both rooftop solar and large-scale renewables. We need power lines. That’s not the issue. The issue is how can we reduce the massive costs of long-distance energy by maximizing our rooftops?
The answer to this question will impact consumers’ energy bills, and reliability of our power supply for decades to come.
Utilities have a self-interest in the answer. So does the public. In the end, whoever pushes the hardest will win the day.