Battle Looms Over Utility Bilking of California Ratepayers

(02/2021) The California Alliance for Community Energy has recently released a position paper calling for a statewide legislative effort to eliminate a fee on Community Choice energy customers that results in all California ratepayers being bilked by PG&E and the state’s other monopoly utilities. 

The fee in question is referred to as the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA), a wonky name that conceals the fact that this fee is a weapon being used against all California ratepayers to bolster monopoly utility control of the state’s energy system at a time when these very same utilities have failed to provide safe, reliable, and affordable energy to Californians.
The five-year-old Alliance for Community Energy is calling for the sunset of the PCIA fee. This action stems from the Alliance’s role as a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to local, democratic control of energy resources and services. It advocates for the state’s twenty-three Community Choice energy programs to be vehicles for the environmental, economic, and social justice benefits of the communities they serve. 
The ability of Community Choice to play that role, however, is being severely undercut by the state’s monopoly utilities, which, with the active assistance of the California Public Utilities Commission, have sought to undermine the viability of Community Choice agencies. Their weapon of choice is the PCIA, an ongoing fee that Community Choice customers are forced to pay for no longer being retail customers of the utilities. The impact of the PCIA fee is to shield the monopoly utilities from competition from Community Choice agencies, removing any incentive for the utilities to lower their cost of energy. 
As a result, retail customers of Community Choice agencies have been hit by dramatically increasing PCIA fees for energy they do not use, while retail customers of the monopoly utilities have been saddled with ever increasing electricity bills. Simply put, they, too, are paying the cost of inflated energy prices and for the continued operation of costly, dilapidated power plants like Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
The PCIA is a big win for the utilities and a big loss for all California ratepayers, who are being forced to enrich utility shareholders to the tune of billions of dollars per year for over-priced energy. Worse than that, however, is that the need to transform the state’s energy system to meet the needs of our communities in the face of climate change is being severely compromised by an energy system controlled by the state’s monopoly utilities. 
Look in the near future for the Alliance’s campaign to sunset the PCIA. For now, check out the arguments in the position paper for why eliminating the PCIA is an urgent necessity.