Author: Jean

The State’s Biggest Utility Could Have Helped Keep the Lights On Without It

The State’s Biggest Utility Could Have Helped Keep the Lights On Without It

California repeatedly warned about spiking gas prices, fragile supply. But fixes never came.

The state’s biggest utility, Southern California Edison, asked its political leaders not to raise the price it pays for wholesale electricity the utility bought from the state. That could have been a good move. Not only would it have helped keep the lights on, it’s probably already done as much as it was ever going to do to help the situation. The state’s biggest private utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, asked its customers to pay more for their electricity. It’s also been very successful in getting its customers to pay less as the summer heat up.

But by the next summer, when power prices are up, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric will probably have to raise prices yet again, just to stay where they are.

This is what happens when you spend $10 billion on a dysfunctional energy system that is so dependent on volatile wholesale electricity prices – more than twice the state’s total spending on energy, in fact — that its biggest and the state’s third most populous city, Los Angeles, couldn’t afford to keep the lights on without it. The state’s energy department says that power prices won’t increase much above the next few years’ peak this summer, thanks to a record $9 billion reserve of natural gas.

But the reserve is going to run out, and prices are going to rise again. It’s why the state’s biggest utility, Southern California Edison, is warning its customers this week that it may need to raise the price of its power. (The company’s rates are going up by as much as 5 percent beginning next week, to help the utility pay for its costly power plant in San Diego, which is scheduled to be decommissioned.)

And it’s why California’s largest public utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, is warning power customers today that it may

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