Despite consumer efforts to reduce energy use, SDG&E plans to raise rates

Since the recession hit, San Diegans have made great efforts to conserve energy, despite that
SDG&E residential electric rates went up at the start of the year because SDG&E say they took in less money than expected last year.

San Diego Gas and Electric is taking great pains to explain why selling less power to its residential customers in 2010 translates into those customers having to pay 2-to 3-percent more for their electricity at the start of 2011.

That state regulated process involving the rates the utility can charge its customers includes a forecast on how much it should cost SDG&E to deliver energy, including infrastructure and how much customers are going to buy.

Last year, the recession caused residential customers to use a lot less energy so the company is allowed to adjust its rates. Spokesperson Stephanie Donovan appreciates why residential users are likely shaking their heads, “believe me,” Stephanie says, “I don't want them to think we don't want you to conserve, you absolutely want to conserve.”

But, the company does get an authorized rate of return, against based on a forecast and here Donovan adds, “if you collect more than you are authorized, you have to give it back and we do, and most customers see a decrease in their rates come January 1st.”

Donovan also points out that the regulated process involves three adjustments a year and that in June, most residential customers will likely see a 2-percent decrease in rates.

We should add that the adjustment allowed by the public utilities commission includes increased insurance costs from the 2007 wildfires and upgrades in infrastructure including the addition of smart meters.

The consumer group, The Utility Reform Network, or T.U.R.N., takes a different view. The California Public Utilities Commission, a T.U.R.N. spokesperson told KUSI's Ed Lenderman, has allowed the utilities to live high on the hog for too long. The spokesperson questioned why the smart meters are factored into the rate hike when their benefits haven't been proven.

In this economy, said the spokesperson, SDG&E should be looking for ways to keep bills affordable, not boosting its bottom line on its customers backs.

Categories: KUSI