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Richard Rider

California’s 2014 sky-high electricity rates — it’s gotten even worse

SUMMATION:  Based on my updated research, the highest residential cost electrical utility in the nation by FAR is SEMPRA — a.k.a. SDG&E. Second is Pacific Gas&Electric. Third? Southern CA Edison. And all three lead the pack by a LOT.

California’s industrial electricity rates are FAR higher compared to other states — 85.4% higher than the national average as of July, 2014.  That’s a much worst difference than our average residential rates compared to other states. 

Still to come are the effects of California’s unique “cap and trade” tax, which could boost our costs another 30%.  Barring some dramatic change in policy, the disparity between electricity costs in California vs. the otherh states will only grow.


While I’m not adding this detailed residential electricity cost analysis to my “Breaking Bad: CA vs. the Other States” fact sheet (this electricity analysis is a hard item to condense into one sentence), it’s a situation my California readers need to understand.  Our state’s residential electricity rates are quite high compared to the rest of the nation.  And under AB32, these rates are predicted to go up as much as 30% or more — while the other states didn’t chose to commit such “cap and trade” economic suicide.

BTW, our state’s industrial electricity rates are FAR higher compared to other states — 85.4% higher than the national average as of July, 2014.  That’s a much worst difference than residential rates.  I’ve written recently about this aspect. .

But this article will dwell on the cost of electricity for our homes.  I’ll include SDGandE rates, but let me walk you through how we get there.  You won’t like the result.  No-sir-re-bob!Okay okay.  If you like “spoilers,” you can skip to the next to last paragraph in this article to get the SDGandE rate — the part in bold.  But it will mean more to you if you first slog through this piece.
For comparison purposes, I’m ranking homes with an average monthly usage of 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) — a common utility industry benchmark.  I’m sure that this usage level is above average for a California home (California “coasters” have less heating and cooling costs than average), but as a widely used benchmark, it works quite well for comparison purposes.
1,000 kWh/month actually is a bit less than what we used in my home seven miles from the ocean — before we installed a solar array, but after we had switched to florescent everything.
AN ASIDE:  Yes, residential solar electricity for the USER is a good deal — IF: 
  1. You live inland in sunny southern CA (not right on the coast)
  2. You exceed 500 kWh per month usage
  3. You pay our area’s sky-high electricity costs and
  4. You receive overly-generous government tax credits for installing a solar array. 
Even then, you’d normally want to install only enough solar to eliminate the usage at the upper tiers, where the per unit cost can double.  In San Diego, that “trigger point” is usage above that roughly 500 kWh level.  Hence for a 1,000 kWh user, you should consider solar primarily for the top 500 kWh usage.  I’ve written about the consumer solar power option before.
Pricing of electricity is tricky, and is something most people simply can’t or don’t figure out.  There’s electricity cost, distribution cost (based on electricity usage), lots of taxes and — most important — there’s usually tiers of usage.  The more you use, the higher the tier, and the higher the cost of each tier.
Fortunately, Jacksonville Electric (JEA) posts a continuously updated comparison of itself with 52 other utilities around the nation, based on 1,000 monthly kWh residential usage. Unfortunately the JEA comparison does not include all the utilities, but it’s certainly good enough for our purposes — and I know of no other source.According to JEA’s current July, 2014 figures, the most expensive utility they survey is Southern California Edison charging $260.50 for a 1,000 kWh of electricity.  SCE is 14.5% more than the second highest utility — some dinky outfit in Fairbanks, Alaska, charging $227.59.  But then, EVERYTHING costs more in Alaska. In third place is the Newark, NJ electric utility charging $178.98.
The median-priced utility listed charges $123.91, less than half what SCE charges.  The lowest utility is in West Virginia, charging $92.62. To see the full chart, go to:
Missing from the JEA comparison is our state’s huge Pacific Gas and Electric utility.  That’s understandable, as PG&E’s Byzantine rate structure is just too hard to calculate — they charge different rates in different communities, as well as usage price tiers.
The best I can come up with was an outdated study done by an analyst in Fresno who ran the 1,000 kWh PGandE numbers for his area in 2010 (the URL is no longer valid).
PGandE rates were highest at $241.93 — over 27% higher than our local expensive SDGandE.  And note that this PGandE rate is about four years old.  Most utility rates have gone up since then — presumably so has PGandE’s — which would vault it into the most expensive utility slot.
Other utilities in CA charge less than SoCal Edison and PGandE, but are still well above the national average.  For instance, the LA Water and Power electricity rate is 4th highest on the JEA chart, while the Sacramento Municipal Utility is #11 on the list.But wait!  There’s more!  Oh my yes.  My regional friends (and enemies) are gonna love this.With no small amount of effort, I managed to get the figures from SDGandE for 1,000 kWh usage. I used the “inland” pricing band — the second of four geographic bands used in the county (the first is “coastal”).  “Inland” constitutes most of the residents in the county.

Ready?  The SDGandE cost for 1,000 kWh of electricity is $336.00.   That’s 29.0% higher than the highest utility on the list — SoCalEd.  It’s 171.2% higher than the median-priced utility on the list (200% would be TRIPLE the cost).  Doubtless SDGandE is easily the highest cost residential utility in America. Oh joy!

NOTE:  I hate to bring this up but must — these sky-high Golden State electricity costs are figured BEFORE the California “cap and trade” costs arrive in earnest — starting in January of next year. Remember, no other state has such “cap and trade” pollution/energy costs. Without a dramatic change in California policy (not likely), our adverse California pricing disparity can only grow in future years.