Thursday June 11, San Francisco–
The one quarter of Californians who are energy insecure will be safer thanks to new protections that go into effect immediately. TURN’s multi-year campaign to reduce shutoffs by PG&E, Sempra and SoCal Edison today won approval by the California Public Utilities Commission, and will require the companies to dramatically decrease shutoffs, keep vulnerable customers connected and improve affordability for at-risk households. Under today’s decision, there will be limits on how many customers can be shut off, deposits and reconnection fees will be eliminated and affordable payment arrangements will be required.
“These protections are especially crucial for Californians who are experiencing loss of income,” said TURN executive director Mark Toney. “For now, the emergency protections originally advocated for by TURN for wildfires have been extended for the COVID pandemic. When those temporary protections end, we don’t want to see a rash of electric and gas shutoffs.”
Utilities will be required to offer low income customers an “arrearage management plan (AMP). AMP customers will have a portion of their debt forgiven for every on-time payment they make. Legislative protections won by TURN already prohibit utility companies from shutting off medically vulnerable customers who agree to a payment plan. TURN had urged the CPUC to extend similar protections to seniors and households with infants, but the Commission refused to do so.
“Justice requires that these essential services be affordable for every single person in California” said TURN executive director Mark Toney. “We wanted the utilities to offer ‘percentage of income plans’ to customers in zip codes with the highest shutoff rates, but the Commission put that off until later. In the future, we hope to see percentage of income payment plans become the norm, so that disadvantaged people can avoid losing service. Utility companies have been too quick to pull the plug in the past,” he said. “The consequences are dire and unnecessary.
The protections won by TURN today include:
- Prohibitions on disproportionately concentrating shutoffs in low-income communities of color.
- Reforms to “benefit of service rules” that will prevent utilities from unfairly transferring “roommate charges” to blameless tenants.
- Requiring declining rates of disconnections from all the companies.
- Reconnection fees eliminated.
- Reforms to utility payment plan practices that give customers 12 months to catch up on back bills.