In California, Your Income Could Determine Your Electricity Rates

In California, Your Income Could Determine Your Electricity Rates
In California, Your Income Could Determine Your Electricity Rates

Injustice is becoming a way of life in California.

The increasingly erratic state tax structure is one reason the long-heralded “Golden State’s” population is shrinking. In 2021, the decrease was over 117,000, on top of a 182,000 loss in 2020.

Mandating Unfairness

Now, the state is piling another injustice upon its taxpayers—in the form of a fee to be attached to Californians’ electric bills. Unlike other energy taxes, this one has nothing to do with the amount of electricity that a household uses. It will be based on the ratepayer’s income.

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According to the Washington Post, the state will force someone making $180,000 per year to pay an extra $500.00 per year on top of some of the highest electrical rates in the nation. On the other hand, the lowest income consumers will save about $300.00.

Californians already pay some of the highest electrical rates in the nation. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration figures from 2021, Californians paid 19.65 cents per kilowatt/hour for electricity when the national average was 11.1 cents. Only Alaska and Hawaii were higher. (Idaho was lowest at 8.17 cents.) This price does not include taxes and other fees.

Expensive and Unreliable Power

Not only is California energy expensive, but it also changes over the course of the day. The strain on California’s electrical grid is so great that the utility companies charge more at midday and early afternoon when usage is greatest than in the middle of the night. Pity the poor customers of Pacific Gas & Electric, whose customers’ rates, according to the Washington Post, start at 31 cents per kilowatt/hour and can climb to fifty cents, depending on the time of day.

Even at those prices, the electricity supply in California is unreliable, with rolling “brownouts” always possible when the weather is especially warm.

Self-Imposed Wounds

Other state actions have made the electrical situation still worse. Last year, National Review summed up the problem and at least one of its many causes.

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“California has aggressively shut down more reliable nuclear, coal, and natural-gas power plants to boost demand for solar and wind farms, which naturally stop working later in the day just as electricity demand tends to peak. This policy to promote green energy has tremendously damaged California’s electrical grid, placing the state at serious risk of unintentional mass blackouts to go with the current rolling ones.”

Californians—like everyone else—respond to high fees by conserving power. For instance, they will turn off air conditioning, use appliances or extinguish lights when unneeded.

Of course, many people around the country have installed solar panels on the roofs of their homes to meet the need for more power. In sunny California, this is especially effective.

However, even if every Californian installed solar panels, the electrical supply issue would still go unsolved. The Hoover Institution’s David Henderson wrote about the problems of solar energy in 2020, “The huge downside is that solar energy cannot produce electricity at nighttime. When the sun goes down, solar energy falls to zero. As is well known, the sun goes down every day in California. The medium downside is that on a cloudy day, solar energy can produce only 10 to 25 percent of the electricity it can produce on a sunny day. This second downside means that solar energy is unreliable even during the daytime.”

Legislative Arrogance

A significant part of California’s electricity woes is the attitude of the State legislature and governor. They believe passing a law is the first step to solving any problem. Then, they think that their job is finished. Any compliance issues are problems others must solve.

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For instance, California law currently says that one-third of the state’s electricity must come from “renewable sources,” mostly wind and solar. In 2018, that law was amended to raise the amount to one-half by 2025, sixty percent by 2030 and one hundred percent by 2045. So, in twenty-two years, the state’s utility providers must fulfill all the demand for electrical power using tools that cannot reliably produce one-third of that amount today.

The legislature’s attitude produces chaos. Citizens know the law will change because it must be adapted to actual circumstances. However, no one is certain when the change will actually happen. In such situations, people are encouraged to break the law, not out of a spirit of disobedience but because compliance with the law becomes increasingly impossible.

A Bad Situation Deliberately Made Worse

As if this legislative mandate was insufficiently arduous, all new passenger cars and trucks must be “emission-free” (electric or hydrogen-powered) by 2035. In its eagerness to please its leftist constituency, CNN led its story on the subject with the headline, “California’s Mandate to Sell Only Zero-Emissions Vehicles by 2035 Isn’t as Crazy as Critics Think.”

The article included this pearl of wisdom from Bloomberg’s Nick Albanese.

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“I think California’s target is ambitious, but feasible,” he wrote in an email. “Even before this announcement, we forecast passenger E.V.s to account for 52% of total U.S. passenger vehicle sales in 2035 and 61% in 2040. Of course, there are many hurdles to overcome on the road to an emission-free auto market, including a widely available charging infrastructure, affordability, and lots of legal fine points.”

Mr. Albanese neglected one fundamental question. Where will Californians get the electricity for all of those cars?

Injustice on a Grand Scale

The most crucial element in any legal system is justice, which Merriam-Webster defines as “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.” The dictionary makers add another facet, “conformity to truth, fact, or reason.”

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The new law that charges higher income earners more for their electricity fulfills neither set of conditions for justice.

First, it is fundamentally unjust to charge two people different prices for the same commodity unless there is some difference in the quality of that commodity. For instance, cotton pillowcases logically cost less than silk. However, no store would be justified in asking customers about their income level before setting the price. That is precisely what the State of California presumes to do with electricity.

Second, the new law, and so many of the others discussed above, violates truth and reason because they are unworkable. Allowing the state to share income information with the power companies infringes upon the customer’s ability to keep such information private. To force customers to divulge their incomes to their electrical provider is ludicrous. It creates a regulatory nightmare.

This unjust law has only one basis—the state’s desire to establish energy equality by stealing from those with more and thus furthering the leftist spirit of this socialist revolution.

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