We have to expand public ownership of the electricity system rapidly and comprehensively. With more than one-quarter of all U.S. households currently experiencing deep energy insecurity, the requirement of private utilities to produce competitive profits for their investments is fundamentally opposed to the equally urgent tasks of resisting energy apartheid and greening our buildings and the power sector.
In current policy and investment strategy, building decarbonization is treated primarily as an appliance swapping project. This micro-approach misses the systemic nature of the reduction of natural gas demand explicit in the swap: drawing down demand is ultimately a natural gas pipeline network decommissioning project.
In December 2022, Los Angeles organizers won a multi-year fight against utility debt and for utility shutoffs within the largest public utility in the country, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which serves over 4 million households and businesses in its service territory. With this definitional change in shutoff policy, governance at the U.S.’s largest public utility provider now more closely resembles the strong protections in place for people using EDF, France’s nationwide and publicly owned and operated electric utility.
Utility shutoffs are a blunt tool that benefits utilities more than people. Creating new standards for counting them isn’t necessary and could potentially produce more harm than good. Our time will be better spent to try to ban them permanently and immediately.