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SDG&E Wants To Nearly Quadruple Its Minimum Charge To Customers

Phil Salas, project manager for the solar panel installation company Home Ene...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: Phil Salas, project manager for the solar panel installation company Home Energy Systems, stands in front of panels he and his crew installed on a San Diego home, Oct. 12, 2015.

San Diego Gas and Electric is looking to nearly quadruple the minimum bill it charges customers.

"The minimum bill amount currently is $10 per month and we’re proposing to increase it to $38 per month," said SDG&E Spokesman Wes Jones.

Jones added that the proposed increase comes as more customers are turning to solar.

Reported by Matt Hoffman , Video by Kris Arciaga

"A solar household may not pay their full cost of service in terms of us giving them electricity and that cost is then shifted to a non-solar household for the grid to be maintained and operated," he said.

Critics of the proposal say it is a tactic by SDG&E to keep people from going solar.

"They don’t want people to install rooftop solar ⁠— they don’t want people to make their home energy efficient ⁠— they do want to encourage even more energy use," said Nicole Capretz who is executive director of the Climate Action Campaign.

Capretz went on to characterize the proposal as a power grab by the utility.

"It’s just another example of SDG&E putting profit over San Diego families," she said.

SDG&E disputes that statement and said this is not about making money.

"This is revenue neutral," Jones said. "This company will not make more money as a result of those proposals. This about equity. This is about making sure that regardless of the customer type everyone is paying their fair share to access the grid."

RELATED: SDG&E’s New Time-Of-Use Plan Explained

SDG&E said about 12% of its customers use solar and those customers represent a cost shift to non-solar customers of more than $400 million a year.

"We’ve got nearly 160,000 customers with rooftop solar and we support that choice but we again don’t necessarily feel like that should create an increased cost burden on another customer without private rooftop solar," Jones said.

While some solar and low-use electric customers might see an increased bill, SDG&E said the proposal would lower costs for everyone else.

"A majority of our customers could benefit from this via lower bills," Jones said.

Capretz said the only way to counter SDG&E is for local governments control the buying and selling of electricity, which is known as community choice energy.

"Bring competition ⁠— make them (SDG&E) adjust and adapt to a competitive arena just like any other business or industry has to do," she said.

The $38 minimum bill is a request by SDG&E and must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. The commission could lower the amount or deny the request entirely. A decision is expected by spring of 2020.

SDG&E said at least 20% of customers could see a bill increased under the proposal. Low-income customers eligible for California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) and Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) would continue to receive a discounted bill if the minimum is changed.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

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San Diego Gas and Electric is looking to nearly quadruple the minimum bill it charges customers. Plus, a fourth horse has died during this racing season after sustaining a “serious injury” during training. Also ahead on today’s podcast, an inewsource investigation looks into the impacts of renovations on SDSU’s campus on the health of students, faculty and staff.

Aired: August 13, 2019 | Transcript

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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