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High-Usage Utility Charge, Mexico Tariffs, Top Weekend Events

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The California Public Utilities Commission rejected a proposal from San Diego Gas & Electric to have its high usage charge removed from its rate structure. Also, exporters in Mexico are holding their breath in anticipation of new U.S. tariffs, and this weekend’s top events feature J-Lo and an avocado festival.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 As how your summer temperatures had our way, so might higher utility bills. And a recent decision by the California Public Utilities Commission may not allow any financial relief for San Diego County. Ratepayers Sdg and e filed a petition to have a tie usage fee removed from its rate structure to save ratepayers a little money, but the CPU see said no. Rob Nikolai [inaudible] is the energy reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune and joined us now to talk about this. Rob, thanks for joining us. Thank you Jane. Good talking to you again. And so why has SGG? Annie asked the CPU see to allow them to get rid of its high usage charge while they wanted to get rid of it because it was implemented. The high usage fee was uh, or charge was implemented November of 2017. And then when we had a really hot summer last summer, the high usage fee kicked in for the first time and people's bills went up a little bit higher in some cases a lot higher.

Speaker 1: 00:59 And they complained to the utility and SDG and e came back and said, okay, we're going to go to the California Public Utilities Commission and asked them to get rid or to suspend at least the high usage charge next summer to try to give people a little bit of financial relief. Okay. And we'll get into that more in a minute. But first, you know, why did the California public utilities commissioners say no? They said no because they felt that overall that the impact of a high usage fee was not as dramatic as Sdg and e and some of it's, some of the critics of the high usage charge said, and they also said that the biggest driver is not necessarily the high usage charge. It's using more electricity. It's uh, it's the amount of electricity that's being used, not so much the high use usage chart. And did the CPEC suggests another option for lower bills outside of cutting the high usage fee?

Speaker 1: 01:56 Well, they offered that option but it's not really for lowering bills for the option is, was that they said that the uh, suggested that Sdg and e come back and get rid of the differential between summer rates in winter rates and very quickly winter rates are a little bit less for usually about 4 cents a kilowatt hour less than summer rates. And that's something, again, not just somebody that Sdg knee does, it's something that all of the investor owned utilities do as done by edict from the CPC. Um, so it really wouldn't save any money. You would just, instead of having a winter rate in a summer rate, you would combine them and just have one rate and split the difference. So it really wouldn't be a savings, it would just be a reduction in the volatility. So you'd have more consistency over the year rather than having a difference between summer and winter.

Speaker 1: 02:50 And there was a big public outcry from customers last summer in response to high electricity bills. Reminded us how that high usage charge works under a tiered rate system. Every electricity residential customer is given an allotment about how much, how many kilowatt hours they can use in a given month. If you use a 130% of your allotment and 130% and under your charge one fee a, in fact it's in the summertime, it's 29 cents a kilowatt hour. For a typical residential customer, when you go over 130%, then every kilowatt hour you expand goes up to 39 cents. And then if you go to four times 400% of your allotment, it then kicks all the way up to 55 cents a kilowatt hour. So we can get expensive pretty quickly. So how much higher where the bills that SDG and e customers received? We got reports. In fact, I talked to a woman last summer in Fallbrook who've had a $656 monthly bill during the height of the summer and last summer was a scorcher in San Diego and that was 50% more than she had paid.

Speaker 1: 04:06 Uh, the previous month. Now there's some differential there because you have to ask, well, are people paying a lot more because they're using more or is it just the fault of the high usage charge? Because again, every kilowatt hour you expand over 400% of your allotment. That's when you have to pay 55 cents a kilowatt hour. Now the intent of the high usage charges is to encourage people to use less energy. Is it effective in achieving that? I think it might be a little too early to tell because it wasn't implemented until at the end of 2017. So we've only had it for one whole year and it really has its major effect in the summertime because that's when people really crank up the air conditioners, use their pools more, et cetera. And you know, and um, the, the electricity if you've, if you've got a pool on your property really runs up really high.

Speaker 1: 04:59 So it's, I think it's a little bit too early to tell. And as you reported, this decision comes just as SDG and e's new tiered rate structure is rolling out and it doesn't include a high usage fee. So could this all be moot? That's a really good question and that's something that some of the groups that um, filed with the California Public Utilities Commission Against Sdg and e's requests were saying, they were saying that if we're going to move over to time, a few freights witches are completely different than front than tiered rate and we are not Justin Sdgd service territory but across the country if we're going to do that then this problem will basically solve itself cause there's no under a time of use rate structure rather than a tiered structure, there is no high usage charge kicking in. Customers who use lots of power during heat waves for example, be impacted under the new time of use structure.

Speaker 1: 05:53 Well under time, if youth is completely different than that than a tiered structure, a time of youth system. It's not necessarily how much electricity you're using it in a given month. It's when you use it, the peak time for people to use electricity. And what the, the utilities commission is trying to get people to, to avoid using electricity from the four to 9:00 PM hours because that's when everyone comes home from work, comes home from school and that's when they turn on their computers, run their dishwashers, turn on their air conditioning. So if you've got time of use rates in effect, if you can encourage them to use their electricity outside of that four to 9:00 PM hour, then they can greatly reduce their electricity bills and what has SDG and e said they intended next SDG and e said that they will look into, instead of having a seasonal differential between winter rates in summer rates, just having one consistent rate. Now that's not necessarily going to lower rates. It'll probably just combine the summer rate and the winter rate so you won't have this wide differential. Normally it's about 4 cents per kilowatt hour between summer and winter. So they'll just have one rate which will affect and help prevent the difference in the volatility. But it's not necessarily going to save people money. I've been speaking with Rob Nicco Lasky, the energy reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune. Rob, thanks so much. Thank you, jade. [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 07:26 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 The US and Mexico have yet to agree on a plan that would stomp President Donald Trump from implementing tariffs on imports from the neighboring country. In the meantime, corporations and small businesses are bracing themselves for the potential costs from Kj is ease Mexico City bureau. George Valencia has the perspective from one Mexican manufacturer.

Speaker 2: 00:21 The company makes straps and buckles. They're based in the central Mexican city of boiler and the president is Gary McKay and Australia president to rock straps here in Mexico. Yes, he's from Australia. He used to run factories in China before starting this one in Mexico last year. He spoke from his factory floor. Right now I'm looking at tables are going to half a dozen people on each one grabbing long bits of webbing and putting bottles on loan and folding them up and giving them the PSOAS and Mckay says one reason he started the factory here was location. This, this one being really close to the USA. Our biggest market is a pretty good spot to me. Another reason he says is that it gives them access to Labor that is relatively cheap and also what La is home to the biggest Volkswagen factory in the Americas, which means a lot of skilled workers around.

Speaker 2: 01:07 We're going to get laser engineers. We can get robotic engine is only condition is, it's very handy. The products made by rock straps are brought into the u s by importers and Arizona, Washington state and New York and they have a number of uses, bags, pets and people like LAPD and police department. Tactical response people, Nikki says he and other business owners like him are paying close attention to President Donald Trump's threats to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico. The biggest thing is the uncertainty. It's really difficult to tell the customers what to expect. For example in the case says he had recently promoted his company at a trade show in Florida. One of his talking points was that he was exporting from Mexico, which had a free trade agreement with the US and there we got to ring them up and tell him so that promotional campaign didn't last long.

Speaker 2: 01:56 Mckay says this can have a big impact on a company the size of his. He has about 20 employees and says he did about a half a million dollars in sales to the u s over the past year. Starting up a factory in Mexico is very difficult. There is a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot always. But yeah, now we've just got really into production and there we've got this thing hitting us suggests makes you pretty sick and tired for the Mexican economy. This is a big deal. At least 85% of Mexico's exports go to the U S Lend Ramirez. Rusty is an international relations analyst in Mexico City. She says Trump's threats have changed. The political agenda,

Speaker 1: 02:32 Tj public opinion is focusing totally in migration and trade. When a week ago we were focusing on health education, health reforms still and other topics of importance of the national agenda.

Speaker 2: 02:47 Romita says that part of what makes it difficult for Mexico to negotiate on its domestic immigration policy is that the country has already signed a number of international agreements on migration.

Speaker 1: 02:58 Donald Trump taking advantage of that, and it is putting Mexico into a position in which we have to give certain measures and actions to have migrants here in, in the country.

Speaker 2: 03:10 Mexican negotiators said in a statement Thursday that Mexico will deploy is 6,000 members of the National Guard to the Guatemala border region. It's unclear whether or not that'll satisfy Trump's demands on keeping migrants from Central America and elsewhere from walking up to the u s until now, Mexican president and rest, Manuel Lopez Obrador has dodged discussing the negotiations. He finally spoke out about them on Thursday morning. It's Pharaoh [inaudible] episode of those says he's optimistic and hopes the two countries will reach an agreement. In the meantime, Trump has said he will implement a 5% tariff on Mexican imports as early as Monday. Jorge Valencia, Kj is news Mexico City.

Speaker 3: 03:56 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 We Love Avocados here in San Diego so much that there's an entire festival devoted to the green fruit. Plus Jennifer Lopez celebrates a milestone birthday and the San Diego Festival of the arts returns here with details is KPBS arts editor, Nina Garren. Hi Nina. Hello. So there was a music festival that worships at the altar of Avocados. Tell us what's going on. Evolution fest is basically the ultimate southern California festival. It happens like around sunset. People are going to be wearing their avocado socks and their avocado shirts and it's going to be an evening of music, food and arts. It's called evolution fest. Very interesting. Um, I understand that people can walk through and pose with the art installations. Yeah. If there's a day to look cute for your Instagram feed, and this is the day there's going to be so much, like they're going to be bright murals. There's going to be an avocado mascot. Last year they had like a squishy toy pit that was filled with like squishy Avocados that you could just like swim around in. All right. So you can really do it for the gram. Uh, tell us about the music. Who's performing? It's a lot of Electronica and indie pop. So Saint Lucia is headlining and they're in indie pop band than it's influenced by kind of eighties alternative. You've got lost kings, which is an Edm Dj from Los Angeles and Tim Legend. Kind of a trap. Chill out producer. Let's listen to Saint Lucia. This is dancing on glass.

Speaker 2: 01:28 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 01:47 sounds like a lot of fun. I'm hoping with all this talk about Avocados at the festival will also be serving Avocados. Yes, there's going to be lots of avocado treats by popular food trucks. Of course expect some guacamole. Um, you'll see just kind of creative versions of Avocados you might even see. I'm economists that have designed sculpted into them. Just the for sure you need to show up hungry. I should add that. Um, the food is an extra price on top of admission. Okay, well the [inaudible] evolution festival happened Saturday at Broadway pier a now Jennifer Lopez, she is going on tour to celebrate her birthday. It's a milestone when, right? Yeah. She's celebrating her 50th birthday and she's not hiding it. She's celebrating it. And true j Lo style, so what kind of show can we expect? It's going to look back at her hits and how she's evolved since her 1999 debut on the sixth she's never been really the strongest singer, but she always puts on a good show. She can dance, she's good at acting and she always surrounded herself with the right people. Let's listen to Jennifer Lopez. This is on the floor featuring pit bull [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 03:00 this step, if y'all are in animals and sail up the bug, break a sweat and work, don't stop [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 03:12 sort of energy. They're a, Jennifer Lopez also has a reality show called world of dance. Will that be part of the show? Yeah. She'll have three acts open the show swing Latino, the Colombian Salsa group, the lab with like a junior tricks and stunts group and Briar Nolan who's a contemporary dancer, but Jennifer Lopez is also an amazing dancer and she still will be dancing a lot in this show that she is. Jennifer Lopez performance Monday at Pachanga arena San Diego and the San Diego Festival of arts is also this weekend. How is this different from the other art festivals in town? We have a lot of outdoor art festivals and this one has the reputation of being a little more elegant and attracts popular food vendors and breweries and there are several stages of live music by local artists. We have a clip from one of the local acts performing. This is Nina Francis singing cold water

Speaker 3: 04:05 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 04:26 fit very mellow. I had tell us more about the art. What kind is it? Is it affordable? So it's kind of what you're going to expect. Painting, ceramics, photography. This year, graffiti artist Dave Ross is going to return from his first solo exhibition in New York. He created a character called Bunny Kitty, which is like a cute Tufts superhero and he wrote a book about this character, so his art will be there. It is affordable, but there will also be higher end pieces@thesandiegofestivaloftheartshappenedsaturdayandsundayatwaterfrontparkandofcourseyoucanfindmorearteventsatkpbs.org slash. Arts I've been speaking with arts editor, Nina Garren. Nina, thanks. Thanks. Have a good weekend. You too.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.