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San Diego Officials Oppose SDG&E Rate Changes

Photo caption: San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, right, voices his opposition to prop...

Photo by Tarryn Mento

San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, right, voices his opposition to proposed rate changes by SDG&E, while Councilman Todd Gloria looks on, Feb. 4, 2015.

San Diego Gas & Electric wants to change how your energy bill is tallied, but some San Diego officials are opposed.

San Diego Gas & Electric wants to change how your energy bill is tallied, but some San Diego officials are opposed.

San Diego City Councilmen David Alvarez and Todd Gloria said at a news conference Wednesday that the proposed changes are unfair, while the utility said the changes would bring relief to ratepayers who have unfairly shouldered rising energy costs.

Currently, SDG&E consumers are charged based on a four-tier system. Those who use less energy fall into tiers one and two and pay a lower rate, and consumers who use more energy fall into tiers three and four and are charged a higher rate. The utility's proposal would change it to a two-tiered system to alleviate high rates on tier three and four consumers.

Alvarez said the changes would increase rates for tier one and two consumers and reduce rates for three and four tier consumers.

“We’re concerned because SDG&E customers who are most effective at conserving energy are going to be punished by this rate. And the customers who do not conserve are going to be rewarded," he said.

Gloria said the changes would counter the goals outlined in the city's Climate Action Plan.

“Energy conservation should be incentivized for the long-term benefit of our environment and the proposed rate changes seem to do the exact opposite,” Gloria said.

As energy costs have gone up, SDG&E has raised rates on tier three and four consumers because California forced the utility to cap rates on tier one and two consumers during the energy crisis in 2001. The state Legislature passed a bill in 2013 that allowed utilities to adjust their rates.

By last year, tier one and two rates had grown by about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, while tier three and four rates had grown by 20 to 24 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to SDG&E.

SDG&E spokeswoman Amber Albrecht said the company's tier three and four customers are mostly people who live further inland, make under $75,000 and have higher energy needs than those near the coast.

"So let's really look at these reforms and who they're meant to help," Albrecht said. "And ultimately, our belief is rate reform can help to alleviate the burden of some of these high rates they're paying now."

The California Public Utilities Commission will have the final say on the changes.

The City Council's Environment Committee voted along party lines Wednesday and passed a resolution opposing the changes. Democrats Gloria, Alvarez and Councilwoman Marti Emerald approved the measure, moving it to the full council for consideration. Republican Councilman Chris Cate opposed the resolution.

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