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CPUC Will Oversee California Electricity Rates For First Time Since 2001

Credit: Happy A

Aired 10/9/13 on KPBS News.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 327, giving California regulators another chance to handle how power customers are charged for using electricity.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that could fundamentally change how people are charged for keeping the lights on. However, changes will not happen overnight.

That's because California regulators will have a couple of years to work out just how many provisions of AB327 are actually implemented.

The law gives the California Public Utilities Commission something that has not been in place since the electricity crisis at the beginning of the millenium: the ability to set rates and fees for electricity. The legislature took that authority away when power prices soared in 2001.

Over the next few years, regulators will decide a number of issues, including how much homeowners and businesses will pay for power, how many people can sell their solar power back to utilities and if a flat $10 per month fee will start showing up on power bills.

Utilities officials said a new fee structure is needed to reflect current realities, but solar power advocates saw something there to fear. Solar power advocate Bernadette Del Chiaro said a flat fee is punitive.

"You may start having to pay $10 a month no matter how energy efficient you are," Del Chairo said. "And regardless of whether or not you generate your own electricity with a solar power system. This is something that greatly concerns us because you know, it could kind of cut off at the knees a lot of people's incentives for investing in efficiency and solar."

While the law is sweeping in its scope, California regulators will have to work out the details. Observers say it could take several years to decide which items in the legislation are actually approved by the CPUC.

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