Byline: Katherine Bowers

LOS ANGELES — The 40 percent electricity rate hike the California Public Utilities Commission passed last Tuesday is a bitter pill, but one the apparel and textile industries here say they’ve been expecting to swallow for weeks.
The PUC approved the 3 cents per kilowatt-hour increase after weeks of rolling blackouts, stratospheric natural gas prices and a continued Pacific Northwest drought that has deprived California of hydro power.
Though the rate hike was effective upon its passage, it won’t be clear for at least a month how much electricity bills will rise. The PUC needs to outline specifics to its proposed tiered-rate system that would protect smaller consumers while levying higher rates on larger ones — such as textile operations.
“The increase would be loaded at higher levels of usage [and] it could be higher than 40 percent,” said PUC commissioner Carl Wood, adding he could not be more specific at this stage.
Local industry groups, including the Textile Association of Los Angeles, have been endorsing conservation tactics like energy audits, lowering thermostats or shifting production to off-peak times. But some are skeptical that conservation will do enough to alleviate the pressures on local industry.
“We’re urging members to get energy audits, but we see that as window dressing. You can save 5 to 10 percent, but that’s not [enough],” said Scott Edwards, president of the Association of Textile Dyers, Printers and Finishers.
Edwards emphasized the hikes are still secondary to the natural gas crisis.
“The word from [headquarters] is to ‘do the best you can,”‘ said Andy Cohen, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Laundry, owned by Liz Claiborne Inc.
Cohen has implemented standard operating hours, limiting power usage among the workforce.