California’s Climate Policies Are Burying Residents in High Utility Bills

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Mar 11, 2024

In 2022, California announced visionary plans to achieve net zero carbon pollution by 2045. Through many sustainable moves in the energy sector, the state anticipated dropping gas consumption by 94% and slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 85%.

Legislation was passed to encourage this to happen. However, now many California residents are faced with higher utility bills, and many middle-class and lower-income families are hurting from this increase.

California’s 2045 Goals

California has made many ambitious plans to try to make their state more environmentally friendly in the coming decades.

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Through legislation being passed, Democratic lawmakers are hoping to end up saving Californians $200 billion in potential health costs that would occur as a result of pollution in the future.


Utility Rates Have Greatly Increased

However, many California residents have stated they’ve had to bear the burden of reaching these high goals. Throughout the state, many have claimed their utility rates have skyrocketed recently as the state moves to be more green.

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This has ultimately led to many California residents experiencing a new financial strain, all because of an increase in their utility bills.

Utility Bills Have Shot Up 127%

According to new data, utility bills in California have shot up to 127% more than what residents were paying just a decade ago.

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While there are various factors that have resulted in utility bills skyrocketing, climate spending does play a major factor. This hike in payment comes as California is trying to make a transition from fossil fuels to more environmentally friendly sources.

Residents Are Behind on Their Bills

Because utility bills have shot up in price in just the last few years alone, many California residents are struggling to pay. According to an analysis done by the California Public Utilities Commission’s Public Advocates Office, about a fifth of customers are behind on their bills to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).

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PG&E is the largest utility company in California. This company alone raised its rates by about $34 per month, on average.

Republicans Attack Democrats Over Policies

Because so many residents in California are struggling to pay their utility bills, many state Republicans have begun to attack Democrats over the policies they enacted.

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According to Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher, California’s energy mandates have resulted in bills rising. Many other Republicans state that Democrats are not listening to the average residents who say they are facing financial strains.


Studies Reveal Increased Bill Causes

A recent study conducted by the Transparency Foundation has also revealed that many climate-related fees and hidden taxes are the source and main cause of skyrocketing utility bills.

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The cost of these energy mandates has resulted in hiking prices for residents — and there are many signs that point to utility bill prices continuing to rise.


Wildfires Remain an Issue

Wildfires will likely remain a large issue for residents in the near future. Wildfires have become more common, thanks to weather becoming more extreme. However, utility companies also are involved in these wildfires.

A California neighborhood during a wildfire, with the mountains behind it on fire.

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Some aging utility equipment in California has previously caused some of the worst wildfires the state has ever seen. This may continue to happen if the companies don’t deal with the old equipment and lines.


Utility Companies Charging Customers for Wildfires

Major utility companies in California are now going around and either burying or updating their old equipment. This is all an attempt to steer clear of accidental wildfires raging out of control once again.

Fire and smoke seen on hills and mountains in California during the daytime.

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However, these companies are also charging their customers — California residents — in order to bury and upgrade their old equipment. This is one of the major reasons why some bills have increased.


The Transition to Renewable Energy

California is pushing a transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. However, this has also played into the higher utility bills.

An aerial view of a wind farm in California on hills.

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For example, low-income ratepayers becoming a part of renewable energy programs results in utility reimbursement. While renewable power will eventually help residents save money, this transition period is seeing many pay more.


Democrats Recognize the Problem

Many Democrats who voted for these environmentally friendly measures have publicly said they recognize there is a massive problem for many California residents.

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However, though they’ve said they see this problem, there hasn’t been enough done to bring about quick and efficient support for many families who say they are financially struggling because of their utility bills.


Residents Make Their Voices Heard

Californians have loudly made their voices heard to many policymakers as they face an uphill battle against utility companies.

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“Californians are fed up,” said Democratic state Assemblymember Marc Berman. “My constituents are pissed off. I know because they told me over and over again at every community coffee that I had in the fall and in the winter. Their rates keep going up.”