Sacramento, CA asked in Energy, Oil and Gas and Municipal Law for California

Q: Can municipal utility in CA charge res. customers w/ identical condos in a building different electric base rates?

My condo building has 14 identical units. Local utility company implemented a new electric service billing method with a fixed base rate per EDU (Equivalent Dwelling Unit) plus a usage rate per kwh. To determine what an EDU is under their scheme, they took the average annual kwh for each customer over the previous three-year period divided by the total kwh usage of the entire district / number of residential meters.

I am one of a few full-time residents in this ski town so my average electric use is higher than the overall average. I own a condo in a building that is identical to 13 other units in the building--same floor plan, square footage, everything. I nonetheless have to pay a base rate for electricity that is roughly 2.5 times higher than other identical parcels in the building. Everyone pays the same rate for actual electricity used at a rate of $.22 per kwh.

Is this legal? Seems to violate Cal. Pub. Util. C. 453(a).

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Municipal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, particularly referencing the California Public Utilities Code 453(a), utility companies are generally prohibited from discriminating between customers in similar circumstances. This includes charging different base rates for electricity to customers in identical living situations, such as identical condos in the same building.

In your case, if the only difference between you and the other condo owners is the amount of electricity used due to being a full-time resident, charging a significantly higher base rate could potentially be seen as discriminatory. This practice might conflict with the principle of equal treatment mandated by the law.

To address this issue, you should first raise your concerns with the utility company directly. If they do not provide a satisfactory response, consider filing a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The CPUC oversees utility companies and ensures that their billing practices comply with state laws.

You may also want to consult with a lawyer experienced in utility law. They can provide specific advice on how to proceed and represent your interests in any potential dispute with the utility company.

Remember, equal and fair treatment in utility billing is important, and your situation warrants a thorough examination to ensure compliance with state laws.

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