California's Carbon Trading Program May Give You Money Soon

Millions of California households will get a little help on their electric bills this fall. | Photo: hubgoat/Flickr/Creative Commons License

California households who get their electricity from the state's privately owned utilities will be getting a bit of a present in their electric bills this fall, thanks to the state's greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.

Most California residents' electric bills will be credited an average of $35 in October or November through the state's Climate Credit program. The money comes from emissions permits purchased by the state's largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

That $35 average credit varies by your utility, with some companies' customers getting more and some less. Southern California Edison residential customers will receive $40 per household, while San Diego Gas & Electric clients will receive just under $37. The objective is to provide Californians with a bit of cash they can use to invest in energy-efficiency such as LED light bulbs, further cutting the state's greenhouse gas footprint.

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"The Climate Credit is part of an array of programs, including cap-and-trade, developed by California to fight climate change and improve air quality," said Mary D. Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board, in a press release. "If homeowners and businesses use their credit to invest in energy efficient measures to help reduce their carbon footprint, they will save even more energy and help the state meet its goals." CARB administers the Climate Credit program along with the California Public Utilities Commission.

This will be the second Climate Credit payment made to California ratepayers. The first appeared on California electric bills in April/May 2014. The plan is for those semiannual credits to be made in spring and fall on a recurring basis every year.

A $35 credit would pay to replace two 60-watt incandescent light bulbs with their 8-watt LED equivalents, which run about $15 these days before tax. If each of the 10.7 million California households getting a Climate Credit this fall bought those LEDs, the state could conserve as much as 1,112 megawatts of electrical power -- equivalent to the output of two mid-sized natural gas fired power plants.

Of course with economic conditions being what they are, it's just as likely that that $35 average credit will be used to pay down Californians' outstanding electric bill balances, or perhaps buy beer. Still, it's a nice perk of the state's climate policy as enacted in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, a.k.a AB 32.

Oh and bad news for those ReWire readers served by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power: As LADWP is a public utility, you won't be getting a Climate Credit on your bill.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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