The City Council voted on Tuesday to approve Glendale Water & Power’s proposed electric rate increases for specific customer classes averaging 14.8%, 11.3% and 11.3% respectively over the next three years, as well as approving fixed adjustments to residents’ rates who qualify for discounted electric bills through the Glendale Care Program.
While the Council had previously approved these average increases in September, their Tuesday decision dealt specifically with each customer class’ electric rates. Per GWP and city staff recommendations, the Council selected a plan that will increase residents’ bills by 18.7% in 2024, 14.2% in 2025 and 13.6% in 2026. Small businesses will see increases of 18.8%, 12.4% and 13.2% and medium businesses’ rates will increase by 10.4%, 6.9% and 7.2%. Lastly, large businesses will see increases of 10.9%, 9.9% and 10%.
Tony Georgis, a managing partner at energy consultant NewGen, addressed the question of why residents and small businesses are seeing higher rate increases at a September Council meeting.
“While large businesses do use a lot more electricity than a single family residence or multifamily dwelling [and small businesses], they use it in a more stable manner which has less of a variable impact on the system,” Georgis said during the Sept. 26 meeting.
These increases are meant to cover the deficits in the city’s budget for completing the Grayson Repowering Project, the Scholl Canyon Biogas Renewable Generation Project, city solar projects, and Glendale’s commitment to building and fleet electrification.
City Manager Roubik Golanian said the causes of these deficits are the increasing costs of wholesale purchase power, materials, equipment, labor, variable fuel prices, decline in revenues and factors such as higher interest rates for debt services.
“Not implementing the rate increases will have enormous, negative, long-lasting consequences including inability to supply the city’s electric load which means resorting to blackouts; inability to fund, invest in or participate in local or outside the area renewable projects; inability to meet Council’s established goal of 100% clean energy by 2035 … and ultimately, the loss of our publicly owned utility,” Golanian said.
He also noted that without these increases, the city could face breach of statutory and contractual obligations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the state of California and could face claims of damages due to termination of existing contracts and professional services agreements for projects mentioned above.
“We know that this is going to be a hardship for many people. We don’t relish doing this. We never like increasing rates, but we need to keep the utility solvent,” Mayor Dan Brotman said during the meeting. “With a heavy heart, I think we are all approaching this as something we really cannot see any alternative to doing.”
When these specified customer class increases were introduced to the Council at a Nov. 14 meeting, Councilmembers asked staff to come back with information on how these increases would affect low-income residents and how the city could help support them.
“My concern is regarding those who are most severely impacted by these [increases]. Obviously doing the things that we need to do to keep our utility healthy aren’t always comfortable financially, but some people are going to be more severely impacted than others,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said.
Currently, the Glendale Care Program provides electric bill discounts to qualifying residents based on income level or whether they qualify for other benefit programs such as food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, Medi-Cal for Families, CalWORKS and more.
Those who qualify for discounted electric bills currently receive a flat rate of $17.50 per month, which is equivalent to about 24% of the average monthly bill for enrolled participants. Applying the proposed electric increases for regular GWP customers to that 24%, GWP calculated proposed increased rates to program participants, which the Council approved on Tuesday.
The first increase will begin on Jan. 1 with a $20.50 flat rate charge. Then another increase will take place on July 1 resulting in a $23.50 monthly charge and then another one on July 1, 2025, for a $26.50 monthly rate, which will continue for 2026, 2027 and 2028.
“Although [our low-income customers’] rates are still going up, we’re making sure that their rates aren’t going up more than everyone else, because we are keeping that benefit in line on a percentage basis with their average bill,” Brotman said.
Scott Mellon, the assistant general manager for GWP, said GWP is going to do a “deep dive” into the Glendale Care Program as a whole to investigate expanding the number of people who qualify for the program or potentially creating a hybrid payment model. The results of this “deep dive” will be brought back to Council in January or February, Golanian said.
“We would like to see as soon as possible how we can widen this up to a slightly higher income level as well as maybe a focus on people that are either seniors, people that are disabled, people with large families, other categories that we know are going to be hurting,” Brotman said.
To learn more about the qualifications for the Glendale Care Program, visit glendaleca.gov/government/departments/glendale-water-and-power/residential-customers/low-income-programs/glendale-care.
First published in the December 2 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.