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State Regulators To Vote On New Energy Rates For San Diego Customers

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State Regulators To Vote On New Energy Rates For San Diego Customers
State Regulators To Vote On New Energy Rates For San Diego Customers
State Regulators To Vote On New Energy Rates For San Diego Customers GUESTS:Amber Albrecht, senior communications manager, SDG&E Marta Stoepker, deputy press secretary, Sierra Club Don Kelley, executive director, Utility Consumer Action Network

California regulators are considering a new way for residents to pay for electricity, imposing a charge on the greatest energy users while narrowing price gaps for everyone else.

The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote on a compromise proposal Friday, marking the first changes in residential rates since energy brownouts roiled the state 15 years ago.

The Legislature in 2001 expanded rate-paying tiers from two to four, and froze the lowest levels to protect households from huge swings in energy costs. The state's three major investor-owned utilities say the steeply tiered structure means higher-use customers have been unfairly subsidizing low-energy users for years.

The proposal released Wednesday is a compromise applauded by Commissioner Mike Florio, who had been critical of an earlier proposal backed by PUC President Michael Picker and utilities. Florio had submitted a competing plan that consumer and environmental advocates preferred.

The compromise calls for a return to two tiers, but Florio said there would be a surcharge on the highest energy users. He said the compromise protects low-income users and low-use households.

"Yeah, I'm reasonably happy," said Florio, adding that he protested Picker's plan because, "I don't want to see big users get a break at the expense of small users."

Still, at least one environmental group remains unconvinced and is urging the five commissioners to vote for Florio's original plan, which remains on Friday's agenda.

The compromise, said Evan Gillespie of the Sierra Club, "continues to punish low energy users, hurt low-income families and discourage conservation."