I Need More Money, Thanks
In Oregon a while back, there was a proposal to move our road tax system to a full weight-mile tax. The complaint was that cars were getting too fuel-efficient, and Oregon wasn’t getting enough from gas taxes. The only reason it failed was that they couldn’t figure out how to implement it without years of lawsuits.
Why did I think of government trying to get money out of people who try to be efficient? Um, no reason…
State energy regulators on Tuesday proposed major changes to the way residents pay for electricity in the biggest overhaul of utility rates since California’s energy crisis more than a decade ago.
The changes may seem counter to the state’s long-standing push for energy efficiency. But, according to the commission’s staff, the most efficient California households currently pay less for electricity than the utilities spend supplying it to them. They are, in effect, subsidized by households in the higher tiers.
The point is not how much is costs to supply a particular household. If that were true, you’d charge varying rates based on distance from a grid point. More distant places need all that power line infrastructure, and have to cover loss. No, I’d suspect more that it’s the energy companies deciding that people who are supplying their own power are diminishing the value of the actual utility.
Though the article doesn’t mention it, this likely only applies to retail power rates. If you haven’t played with your own energy production, the utility buys your electricity at wholesale rates, and then charges you varying retail rates if you need more than you produce. That’s not really part of the discussion above, but it’s worth noting.
To a degree, I’ve been waiting for this to happen. To some extent, the customers who are using little energy do cost the utility a disproportionate amount, because the infrastructure has to be spread across all the users, and the only way to recoup it is by unit. So supplying to someone who doesn’t pay you back in proportion is always taxing (pun only partially intended).
But this is what you get. The utility is still a profit-making company, and people using less of a profit-making company’s stuff really don’t help said company make profits. And when you also happen to have a near-monopoly approach to business, the little people who are trying to break you, even in subtle ways, just get run over.
We’ll see how far this goes, but I bet it gets a lot farther than the weight-mile tax.