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SDG&E Summertime Bill Reduction Proposal Won’t Help Customers Save

A sign on SDG&E's headquarters appears in this undated photo.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: A sign on SDG&E's headquarters appears in this undated photo.

It’s been a hot summer in San Diego, which means residents have probably seen higher electricity bills. SDG&E has submitted a proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission that would eliminate seasonal price spikes by reducing customers' bills during these hotter months. But, there's a catch.

Some background

SDG&E has been getting customer complaints over high summertime bills for a while. That's why the utility previously submitted a proposal to the CPUC to eliminate the "high usage charge," which penalizes customers that are using overwhelming amounts of energy.

But as Mindy Spatt of the consumer advocacy group The Utility Reform Network explains, that proposal was rejected by the CPUC because it would have unfairly raised customers' bills across the board, even those using lower amounts of energy.

"Someone was going to pay that money, if not the high-usage customer, someone else," Spatt said. "We wanted to find a way to avoid some of the price spikes customers were experiencing, but that would be less onerous to other customers."

Reported by Shalina Chatlani , Video by Matthew Bowler

SDG&E submitted a proposal to the CPUC to reduce seasonal fluctuation in pricing. That means it would lower average customers' summertime bills by about $7 a month.

But, Spatt said the proposal is not as sweet as customers might think.

"To be clear, this is not a reduction in customer’s bills. It’s more of an evening out. Because the money you don’t pay in the summer months you’re going to pay in the winter months. Your bill is not going to spike as high in the summer, but it won’t go as low in the winter," she said.

Spatt said the only way to really change consumers’ bills is for the utility to lower its high electricity rates.

"A way to address complaints"

Wes Jones of SDG&E said customer’s annual energy bill probably won’t change. But, he says reducing this seasonal charge will still meet customers’ concerns.

"We think getting rid of that seasonal change is a way to make more consistent bills throughout the entire year. That gives people the opportunity to budget their household energy expenses and not worry about that bill spiking so much in the summertime," Jones said.

Reducing the volatility in summer prices, Jones said, is the way the utility is trying to listen to customers' concerns. The proposal is now at the California Public Utilities Commission.

"We feel good about our proposal and hope the Commission sees the benefit for our customers," said Jones.

If approved, the plan will go into effect next year.

Listen to this story by Shalina Chatlani.

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Photo of Shalina Chatlani

Shalina Chatlani
Science and Technology Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover all things science and technology — from the biotech industry in San Diego to rooftop solar energy on new homes. I'm interested in covering the human side of science and technology, like barriers to entry for people of color or gender equity issues on biotech boards.

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