Republican Lawmakers Seek to Lower Californians’ Power Bills, Cap Rates

An Assembly bill would order the Public Utilities Commission to cut electricity rates by at least 30 percent.
Republican Lawmakers Seek to Lower Californians’ Power Bills, Cap Rates
An electrical load box in a file image. (Sophie Li/The Epoch Times)
Travis Gillmore

With millions of California utility customers paying some of the highest prices in the country and experiencing rate increases in recent months, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would order regulators to reduce rates.

Assembly Bill 2205, introduced by Assemblyman Joe Patterson, offers one line of text mandating the California Public Utility Commission address concerns related to high energy prices by cutting kilowatt-per-hour rates by at least 30 percent.

“Not a day goes by without someone contacting me about their unaffordable electricity bills,” Mr. Patterson said in a Feb. 7 press release announcing the bill. “Nobody should have to choose between heating their homes and buying food.”

Utility companies are required to submit rate increase requests to the utility commission—with regulatory approval needed before any hikes are passed on to consumers. All requests to raise rates must be “justified and reasonable,” according to the commission, though critics note that increases are regularly approved year after year.

“It is time for the CPUC to focus more on affordability of this necessary service,” Mr. Patterson said. “The cost of electricity has squeezed Californians to a breaking point.”

Bills have spiked by approximately 127 percent in recent years, according to the lawmaker, after the commission approved a 13 percent increase late last year for Pacific Gas & Electric, better known as PG&E, which took effect in January. The company requested an additional $2 billion increase under consideration that would hit bills beginning in March.

Californians pay about two times the national average for electricity, with rates exceeding some areas by more than 500 percent, based on current price per kilowatt hour rates across the country reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Electricity bills that are “out-of-control” are burdening families and small businesses, according to the lawmaker.

“Working families are afraid to turn on their heaters or air conditioner not knowing what their bill will be the following month,” Mr. Patterson said. “Too many Californians are struggling to make ends meet—bringing their electric bills down will ease that burden and improve people’s quality of life.”

A Republican congressman representing the 13th Congressional District in the San Joaquin Valley—encompassing Merced and parts of four other counties in the Central Valley—agreed and said that residents are suffering from unaffordable power rates.

“It’s 105 degrees out there in the summer, and working people ... are literally living in the heat because they can’t afford to run the air conditioner,” Rep. John Duarte told The Epoch Times Feb. 20.

Several social media comments highlighted the dilemma facing some Californians who are forced to choose between eating and heating their homes during the winter or cooling them during the summer due to rising power rates.

“Californians need help,” one person wrote Feb. 7 on X in support of the bill. “Life here is becoming unsustainable.”

Some lawmakers say the rising prices are a result of legislative action related to “clean energy agendas.”

“Utility regulators have driven electric costs through the roof,” Republican leader Assemblyman James Gallagher, co-author of the legislation, posted Feb. 7 on X. “I’m tired of state government adding mandates & regulations that make [California] unaffordable. We need to bring costs down now.”

A study conducted by the Transparency Foundation—a nonprofit based in San Diego focused on holding institutions accountable—found that $4.5 billion in annual energy costs passed on to consumers are related to mandates and taxes passed by the state’s Legislature.

Such charges account for approximately one-third of power bills across the state, the study found.

“None of these taxes are disclosed on the bills sent to residents,” Carl DeMaio, chairman of the Transparency Foundation, said in a 2023 press release announcing the finding. “The public has a right to know that they are being forced to pay higher utility rates than they should be paying, and policymakers need to take immediate action to provide relief.”

AB 2205 now awaits committee assignments from the Assembly Rules Committee and will be considered by lawmakers in the coming weeks.

The utility commission did not respond to requests for comment on deadline.

Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.
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