Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hidden NJ Energy Charges

I may gripe a little when taxes increase, but I don't mind them as I believe in paying for social programs like education, health and safety etc.  The last increase was on July 15, 2006 when the Sales and Use Tax increased from 6% to 7%. The 6% tax came in 1983, and the original sales tax was 3% in 1966.  These sales tax increases have actually been less than inflation. I have never paid the Use Tax, on goods and services purchased out of State, but I probably should. When I ask people about it most don't know what it means, and none have paid it. You have to fill out NJ Form ST-18 and submit the difference between NJ sales tax and the other state's. For example, when I buy my smokes in Pennsy, I should submit 1% in tax. It's like speeding on the Turnpike: you follow what everybody else is doing and don't worry about it (until you're caught).

However, I do have one gripe about the 7% tax on my PSE&G utility bills for electricity and natural gas. Again, I don't mind the tax, because everyone else also has to pay it, whether a renter, homeowner, or business. What I do mind is the fact that there's no line item on any of my bills showing any taxes or fees charged. Not one.

Yet, besides the 7% sales tax I pay, I also pay about 1cent per kWh for the Societal Benefits Charge (which I agree with), and also half a dozen other hidden charges. Some of these hidden charges, although individually small, are for things like: nuclear power plant decommissioning costs paid by the utility company, recovery of stranded costs by the utility companys when they built other power plants, and abandoned gas plants remediation costs.

There's also a Demand Side Management charges, that go to pay businesses real cash when they cut down high usage in the summer during peak hours. There's also a subsidy charge that credits low-income customers. Finally there's a charge for the costs of operating the NJ BPU's Office of Clean Energy, NJ's official Energy Office, and their vendor management companies and consultants. (And I agree with that, althogh oversight could be better?) All of these charges are contained in NJ's energy deregulation law called the Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act passed in 1999, or EDECA for short.

So, as a homeowner, like most other PSE&G customers, I now pay a combined rate of $0.19 per kWh of electricity usage, both for supply and delivery. I thought EDECA said that the 7% Sales and Use Tax was only going to be charged on the delivery side of my energy bill, not the supply side also. But guess what? Because they don't breakout any of these hidden costs on my monthly utility bill, I can't tell how much I'm actually paying for any of these charges!

I really think, of all the thousands of NJ laws we have, we should have one simple one that says: "All taxes and fees will be itemized on every bill and receipt issued by any retailer, business, utility etc."  I mean, all retailers have to show the taxes paid on their receipts. Why are the utility companies exempt?  And who exempted them anyway?