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SDG&E Customers Speak Out About Rate Hike Request

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California Utility Regulators got an earful Monday from people unhappy about San Diego Gas and Electric's billion-dollar-plus rate hike request.

— The Commissioners want to hear what the public thinks about the San Diego Gas and Electric's plan to raise rates by more than a billion dollars over a four-year period beginning in 2012.

SDG&E's Stephanie Donovan said the cost of distributing gas and electricity is going up. The utility said rates would go up about 3 percent for the typical residential customer.

"It's not an automatic slam dunk that SDG&E is going to get what it asks for," said Donovan. "That is the purpose of this regulatory proceeding where other people can get in and share their own thoughts about is appropriate and ultimately it will be the PUC that decides what is fair and reasonable."

The Utility Consumer's Action Network thinks the regulators should lower rates, not raise them, because the utility request doesn't pencil out.

"Every single department at SDG&E somehow has seen its cost go up, and therefore the company needs money," said Michael Shames of UCAN. "The only department where they're able to find any kind of savings, is in the meter reading department. That's because they fired all their meter readers because we now have smart meters."

The massive rate hike request comes at a time when customers can least afford to pay for it, according to UCAN.

The rate request is only related to SDG&E's energy distribution costs. It does not involve the cost of electricity or natural gas.

The PUC is expected to make the final decision on the request by next spring.

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