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Energy rates changed for thousands of Imperial Valley customers this year. Here's what you need to know

Imperial County’s main energy provider is overhauling how it charges thousands of customers this year.

The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) is launching a new average monthly billing system, meaning that some ratepayers will pay a set cost every month instead of a fluctuating monthly energy bill.

IID’s decision to update how it charges customers came after many residents saw surging, unpredictable energy bills last summer as record-breaking temperatures struck the valley.


That change means many customers’ bills may be higher than usual right now since residents tend to use less electricity during colder months. But the utility hopes the change will also mean more predictable and affordable bills during the summer, when customers are likely to be using much more power to keep cool.

Imperial County faces some of the highest temperatures in the Western U.S. In 2023, the region saw 102 days where the temperature was above 100 degrees — more than any other county in California.

Here’s what you need to know about these changes.

Why is IID switching things up?

In past years, IID billed its customers on a month-by-month basis. That price was determined by two factors: how much power the customer had used the month before, and something called the Energy Cost Adjustment, or ECA.

The ECA is essentially a fluctuating fee that represents how much it cost the utility to meet the power needs of the county that month. It includes things like the cost of fuel and maintenance. It also includes buying external power, which the utility often has to do to supplement its own power supply in order to meet the needs of customers.


Those costs always tend to rise during the summer months, according to IID officials. Residents are using their air conditioners more. At the same time, the utility is buying power on the open market to meet that demand, which is often more expensive.

Last year, some people saw their energy bills spike dramatically from one month to the next. IID officials admitted those spikes showed some limits of the ECA system.

“People basically said, ‘My bills got doubled last year. You guys need to do something,’” IID spokesperson Robert Schettler said.

How is the new average billing system different?

In January, IID shifted 12,000 customers to a new monthly average billing system.

The exact amount those customers will pay varies from household to household, according to Schettler. He said the utility calculates each customer’s average rate by looking at their energy usage last year and predicting how much they will use this year.

Other large California power companies like San Diego Gas & Electric have similar programs that give customers a more predictable bill every month.

Whether you’ve already been moved over to this new average rate depends on whether you were enrolled in the utility’s discounted energy program called REAP, which is for lower-income customers.

That’s because IID decided to make the monthly average billing mandatory for those customers and shifted them over to the new system automatically in January.

The utility is encouraging its higher-income customers to opt in too, but made it a voluntary decision. IID serves more than 150,000 customers total.

IID is also planning to limit how much the ECA can rise and fall over the year for all customers.

How much can I expect to pay later this year?

If you’re already paying the new monthly average rate, your bills for the summer and the rest of the year should be roughly what you’re paying right now, according to IID officials.

The big caveat is that IID is essentially trying to predict how much it will cost to generate or purchase energy for the region over the next nine months — and then flattening that cost out across the year for ratepayers.

But if that calculation turns out to be off at the end of the year, it’s not exactly clear what will happen.

If IID turns out to have overcharged customers by setting the monthly average rate too high, officials said they would give that money back as a credit.

If IID ends up undercharging customers, it’s not clear whether they would ask ratepayers to pay an additional cost at the end of the year. Officials have mentioned using money from the Public Benefits Charge to help fill any gaps. But Schettler said the organization’s Board of Directors would have to make a final decision later in the year.

“That is something that they have to wrestle with,” he said.