Commentary: Online resource provides information on electric rates


Issue Date: September 11, 2013
By Karen Norene Mills
Karen Norene Mills

The structure of electric utility rates has become increasingly complex, and that complexity makes rate changes more difficult to assess and predict. To help farmers and ranchers know what to expect when they open their electricity bills, the California Farm Bureau Federation has added a section to our website that provides an overall snapshot of average agricultural rates. The page, at www.cfbf.com/electricityrates, includes sections for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison Co., San Diego Gas and Electric, and PacifiCorp. For each of those utilities, the page will also list any recent decisions affecting the rates, or upcoming proposed rate changes of significance.

Significant rate changes can occur more frequently than the three-year cycle associated with general electricity rate cases. Not only that, but those rate changes outside the three-year general rate cycle don't necessarily occur in a predictable pattern, which can make planning difficult.

Therefore, the information on our webpage will be updated periodically, as decisions are implemented or major filings are presented to the California Public Utilities Commission, including at the end of each year, when rates are typically adjusted to reflect changes passed through from accounts that have been accruing costs or credits throughout the year.

As an example, by looking at the CFBF webpage you would see that the average agricultural rates for Southern California Edison electricity customers are 13.8 cents per kilowatt hour for customers on the TOU-PA-2 rate, and 11.4 cents/kwh for those on the TOU-PA-3 rate. Those two agricultural rates represent broad rate groupings, so average rates for options within those rate groups—such as super-off-peak and interruptible rate options—will vary from the averages.

On the SCE Rates section of the page, you will also see information on two pending actions before the CPUC that could affect rates in the coming year, along with a link to information about agricultural rates on the Southern California Edison website.

We created the CFBF webpage as a place to provide general estimates of how utility rates are trending. It won't enable individual customers to predict rate changes to their schedules with precision, as specific impacts are highly dependent on how and when customers use energy. Each utility may have multiple agricultural rate schedules, with rate changes affecting certain elements of the rate schedule more significantly than other elements. For example, some changes affect the generation element of the schedule exclusively, and if the generation element is a significant portion of the overall bill in comparison to distribution or transmission elements, there will be a disproportionate impact. However, we hope the information will provide some guidance about expectations for electricity rates.

While the webpage provides advance information about the percentage or cents/kwh change resulting from decisions and proposals, CFBF will continue working to represent our members on energy-related matters. Farm Bureau continues to participate in a wide variety of proceedings at the CPUC, California Energy Commission and other agencies. Our goal is to reduce the costs and resource impacts from the multitude of decisions being made about how energy is used and delivered.

(Karen Norene Mills is associate counsel and director of public utilities for the California Farm Bureau Federation. She may be contacted at kmills@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.