Rethinking California’s electric utilities

Beginning with a misbegotten and misnamed “deregulation” of the utilities 22 years ago – which drove PG&E into bankruptcy – the state has been, by legislation and regulatory decrees, increasingly micromanaging how they generate, distribute and price electric power.

They have slowly evolved into quasi-governmental entities while maintaining the façade of private ownership, but without the direct accountability that either fully private or fully public status would impose.

This mish-mash has not been consumer friendly. As they implemented state decrees, many related to shifting from carbon-based generation to renewable sources such as solar and wind, the utilities, with PUC permission, jacked up their ratepayers’ bills dramatically.

Between 2011 and 2018, according to data compiled by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, monthly bills for a typical 750 killowatt-hour of residential usage have jumped by 69 percent in San Diego Gas and Electric’s service area and 46 percent in PG&E’s, while those in SMUD rose by just 21 percent.

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