by J.C. De Vera and Vien Truong
Do you look closely at your electricity bill? If you don’t, you might have missed something important. California’s policies to clean our air and combat climate change literally put money in the pockets of millions of families. In fact, they’ve already done it, but we worry that many in the Filipino community don’t know it’s happening.
If you get your electricity from Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, Pacific Gas & Electric, Pacific Power or Liberty Utilities, twice a year you get something called a Climate Credit. This automatically appears on your bill sometime in April/May and again in October/November (the exact timing depends on your particular billing cycle) without you having to do anything.
Customers of these utilities received their first credit last spring and are getting their second now. Many have already gotten that second credit. On average, customers get about $35 taken straight off their bill.
Under a law passed in 2006 known as AB 32, California charges polluters for the filth they put into our air, pollution that contributes to global warming and hurts our lungs. The Climate Credit is your share of the charges paid by our state’s investor-owned utilities, whose power plants put a significant amount of pollution into the air we all breathe.
The amount of the credit varies slightly depending on which utility provides your power, but every household within each utility’s service territory receives the same amount – regardless of how much electricity the household uses. This makes sure that those who cut their energy use are not penalized by receiving a smaller credit, and it maximizes the benefit for low-income households—who spend more of their income on basic needs like energy and who generally conserve more energy than wealthier families, since they have less money to spend.
Small businesses benefit, too, though their credit works a bit differently. Commercial, industrial, and agricultural customers, as well as nonprofits and schools, that typically use less than 20 kilowatts of electricity each month will receive the Climate Credit every month, as a credit related to the amount of electricity they use.
What you do with your credit is totally up to you, but here’s something to think about: You can magnify your savings by using some of that money to help save energy.
For example, are you still using old-fashioned, power-guzzling light bulbs? If so, you can use your Climate Credit savings to buy a few energy-saving compact fluorescent or LED bulbs. You’ll easily cut your electric bills enough over time to more than cover the cost of those new bulbs, essentially doubling your climate dividend. Not only will this reduce your energy bill, but if all of the millions of us getting this credit take these small steps, it could save enough power to replace two gas-fired power plants, making a real difference in avoiding dirty power and keeping our air clean.
Some of our state’s biggest polluters really, really don’t like California’s climate and clean energy laws, and they’ve been trying to scare people with phony stories about “hidden taxes.” They don’t want you to know that these laws are already cleaning our air and saving consumers and small business owners money. But nearly 11 million California families are seeing those savings on their energy bills right now.