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Our absurdly high cost of electricity

California's residential electricity rates are often outrageous compared to the rest of the nation. And, to get to the bottom line, under our insane 2006 AB32 "Cap and Trade" legislation, these rates are predicted to go up ANOTHER 30 percent or more -- while all the other states have chosen not to commit the same economic suicide.

Compared to other states, California's industrial electricity rates are even higher than our residential rates. On average, our industrial rates are 44.6 percent higher than the national average as of December, 2009: eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html. But my column will dwell on the cost of electricity for our Golden State homes.

For comparison purposes, I'm ranking homes with an average monthly usage of 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh). I suspect that usage level may be above average for a California home (we "coasters" have less heating and cooling costs than average), but it's the benchmark used by utilities to compare rates. Indeed, it's about what we use in my home (actually we are at about 1,100 kWh, even with florescent everything).

Pricing of electricity is tricky, and is something most people simply can't or don't figure out. There's electricity cost, distribution cost (based on electricity usage), lots of taxes and -- most important -- there's usually tiers of usage. The more you use, the higher the tier, and the higher the cost of each tier.

Fortunately, Jacksonville Electric (JEA) posts online a continuously updated comparison of itself with 54 other utilities (public and private) around the nation, based on 1,000 monthly kWh residential usage. Unfortunately the JEA comparison does not include all the utilities, but it's good enough for our purposes: jea.com/services/electric/rates_quarterly.asp.

The most expensive utility in the nation (according to JEA) is some dinky outfit in Fairbanks, Alaska, charging $199.73. No. 2? San Diego Gas & Electric! SDG&E charges $181.62. Third is a New Jersey utility charging $163.54. To give you a feeling for the range of prices, the lowest five utilities average $74.48.

Missing from the JEA comparison is California's huge Pacific Gas & Electric. Fortunately an analyst has figured PG&E's rates for 1,000 kWh usage -- at least in Fresno: fresnobee.com/2010/01/23/1793636/george-l-strasser-pges-outrageous.html.

Move over, Fairbanks! There's a new No. 1 cost utility. PG&E rates are highest by far, at $241.93 -- about a third higher than our local expensive SDG&E.

Other utilities in CA charge less than SDG&E and PG&E, but still well above the national average. There are many factors in such comparisons, and I suspect these figures contain some minor errors.

For instance, do they accurately handle the taxes? And remember, utility taxes can vary by municipality or county.

Still, you get my drift. For whatever reasons, electricity costs a boodle in California, and sadly that is yet another reason for individuals and companies to locate outside our fair state.

In a subsequent column, I hope to discuss ways we can reduce our cost of electricity in California, and why our 1990s bogus electricity "deregulation" was such a disaster.

Rider is chairman of the San Diego Tax Fighters.

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