Here we go again. Once upon a time, our SCV water companies spent two years telling us the equivalent of “children’s bedtime stories” where they were going to “follow the yellow brick road” and have the “Wizard of Water” give them enough of a brain to improve service, enough of a heart to save us money and the courage to do it by using the economy of scale. Yet, none of those lofty goals came to pass. Rather than a happy ending, as soon as Senator Wilk’s California bill passed allowing the merger to happen, Valencia Water and Santa Clarita Water raised their rates, while Newhall Water increased its costs. Through it all, the only honest thing I heard the water company representatives say was, the savings we will be able to attain by merging will not lower our customers’ water rates. There has been a lot of speculation as to why our water suppliers wanted to merge, yet the only thing I know for sure is, the new water company is the only entity which will live happily ever after.
Now it appears, since the water companies did such a good job of duping the public, it is Sothern California Edison’s turn at bat. Remember just a few years ago, when Sothern California Edison (SCE) installed “smart meters” in our community. Oh, what a grand thing it was. By using mesh technology, they could eliminate the need, or lay off, all their meter readers, while giving them the ability to collect data about your electric usage at 15-minute intervals. We were told of the great benefit to every customer, who would be able to go out on the SCE website, monitor their usage and adjust when to run appliances and save money. I opted out of the “smart meter” installation program and paid the extra amount to continue to have my meter read manually, only to find last summer they chose not to read my meter and estimated my consumption instead. Then, at the end of summer, they decided to read my meter and sent me a bill which was six times their summer estimates, because it put most of my usage in the most expensive tier. I naturally reacted by calling, complaining and they recalculated and adjusted my bill downward as they felt was appropriate. I think you can understand why my trust of SCE is rather thin.
I had been reading about the installation of smart meters across the country. Many stories told of their utilities implementing “time of use” (TOU) pricing and indicated their electric bills went up significantly. So, when an SCE representative presented a smart meter implementation plan at the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, we asked if installing “smart meters” was a precursor to implementing TOU pricing. Of course, we were told not to worry, TOU pricing was not in the plan for residential customers.
So much for promises, as you might have read in Saturday’s Signal Business section. So, here comes SCE’s children’s bedtime story. Once upon a time, SCE developed a new rate plan to help save you money. All you need to do is not start your dishwasher until 8 or 9 p.m. and put off doing laundry until the morning. It is not SCE’s idea, they did it because the California Utilities Commission wants to change your usage habits. Beginning March 1, 8,736 Santa Clarita homes will be put on TOU pricing, with full implementation scheduled for 2021. Andre Ramirez, senior advisor on SCE rates, was quoted as saying, “We were very careful to structure the rates,” and “We don’t want customers to have what we call bill shock.” Currently, SCE defines on-peak times (highest rates) as either 4-9 p.m. or 5-8 p.m. weekdays, which makes it sound like the highest rates will hit just in time for most residents to come home from work and turn on their air conditioners. I’m betting the “bill shock” Mr. Ramirez is talking about will not be because of all the money the customer has saved. Mr. Ramirez also stressed “Edison’s not making more money on this (TOU)”. I don’t believe that for a minute. TOU is a pricing plan to put more customers on the grid without improving the infrastructure, by minimizing peak time electricity consumption. More customers translate to more income for SCE.
One bright spot in the plan is, currently you can opt out of TOU pricing, and stay on tiered rates if you so desire. Even if you go on TOU pricing, Edison will offer up to one year of bill protection to TOU participants, crediting you for the difference if a tiered plan would have been less expensive.
So, if you are one of our residents placed on TOU pricing, or you request to be put on TOU pricing, please send the Gazette a letter to the editor and let us know the differences it has made on your bill. That way we will all be sure to know, who will be living “Happily Ever After.”