Electricity Rates

Learn About California Energy Deregulation and Renewable Energy

After periods of energy choice in the late 1990s and early 2000s, California's model is now limited. Few people have the opportunity of choosing a deregulated electricity option under the current rules enforced by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The California legislature suspended electric choice, or Direct Access, in 2001, after the state suffered an energy crisis. Though current consumers retained the right to choose an electric supplier, the majority of California residents and businesses lost the ability to shop among suppliers. Now, over a decade later, the situation remains much the same, with few Californians having a choice among electricity suppliers.

Natural gas choice, however, is open to everyone in California and has been since the 1990s. Residential and commercial gas consumers can choose to get their gas supply from their utility or choose a third-party supplier, officially known as a core transportation agent.

Businesses can shop for California natural gas prices

Though electricity is limited for businesses, natural gas is not. Businesses large and small can explore getting a new California natural gas price. If a commercial enterprise is located in the San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Gas or Pacific Gas and Electric utility areas, it can participate in customer choice. This program simply allows gas consumers to choose who supplies the gas commodity to their business – the utility or a third-party supplier. An open market for gas plans can create competition that's good to California natural gas prices.

Where Californians do have a choice: Renewable energy

Another option for electricity remains available to California home and business owners. Renewable energy – from wind, solar and other renewable resources – is available in many forms for California electricity consumers. Solar energy, in particular, is piquing the interest of many California electricity consumers as it becomes more affordable and easier to finance. Solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) have been available to commercial energy consumers for some time, but they are now being made available to homeowners as well. Increased options to get rooftop solar power for homes has made solar energy a more viable option for many Californians.

Explore the advantages of solar energy

In California, electricity consumers are seeing the advantages of solar energy. Solar power for homes is more affordable than ever as new solar companies enter the market and offer competitive options to lease or buy a solar power system.

Beyond new programs that are bringing down the upfront cost of solar energy, one of the other advantages of solar energy is that it can lower monthly electricity costs as well. Net metering allows solar customers to contribute the excess power that their solar system generates to the grid, spinning their net meters backward. When the solar system isn't producing enough power to meet their homes' demands – at night, for instance – net meter customers can draw power from the electricity grid and their meters spin forward. If they contribute more power to the grid than they consume, they could potentially eliminate their electricity bills.

Thanks to net metering, electricity consumers who choose rooftop solar can stay connected to the electricity grid and enjoy reliable electricity service for potentially less than they currently pay. Staying connected to the grid is one way to avoid one of the disadvantages of solar energy: Intermittency. Since the sun isn't always shining, solar power systems cannot produce energy 24 hours a day. Net metering solves this problem and makes solar power for homes a reliable renewable energy option.

Another advantage of solar energy is that it is a clean, renewable energy source. Solar power for home is on-site energy generation that can reduce or eliminate consumers' dependence on fossil fuels for electricity. Solar energy is non-polluting and renewable – cleaner air and water from a resource that will never run out.

Renewable energy and LEED certification

LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification is a designation given by the U.S. Green Building Council to homes and businesses that meet specific criteria that save money and resources, have positive health and environmental impacts and employ clean, renewable energy. Homes and businesses are awarded points for their green building projects. A minimum of 40 points must be earned to get basic LEED certification, 50 or more points earns a Silver rating, 60 or more earns a Gold rating and more than 80 points earns a Platinum rating. Points awarded for the percentage of annual energy use that comes from renewable energy sources can help a home or business achieve LEED certification. Applicants can receive more points for onsite renewable energy installations, such as rooftop solar regardless of whether the system is owned outright, financed or leased.

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How does California energy use measure up?

state facts pdf

Ever wonder how much energy the average resident uses each year? How about how much carbon dioxide the state emits or how big the renewable energy industry is? We did the homework for you and created some glance-worthy fact sheets on each state's energy profile.

Check it out