Sullivan Solar crew installing panels on rooftop

SDG&E Rate Increase Prompts Increase In Rooftop Solar

By Roy L Hales

Notice of an SDG&E rate increase, to start in September, has prompted more San Diego residents to look into solar.

“Since the announcement last month, we received more interested parties contact us than we have in the history of our company,” said Tara Kelly of  Sullivan Solar Power.

Andy Berlin, of Baker Electric Solar, also mentioned a significant increase in the number of phone calls.

Is SDG&E’s rate increase necessary?

In a recent critique of SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink, published by San Diego Loves Green, electrical engineer Bill Powers said, “These massive solar installations belong to another century. Why would you put a solar panel up 200 miles away, when you can put the exact same panel where it is needed in the city? The only thing you add is a need for 200 miles of transmission lines and a justification for utility companies to charge more money.”

If Mr Powers is right, SDG&E will eventually be forced to choose between their “top heavy” business model or extinction.

“If there are any financial benefits to Sunrise Powerlink, consumers have been frozen out of them,” said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “In fact, SDG&E was recently given the go-ahead to raise its utility rates 11 percent. This when local households and businesses already pay some of the highest utility rates in the nation!”

She was referring to the $123.4 million rate increase that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) authorized last month.

Supervisor Jacob had immediately issued a statement stating, “I’m disappointed that state regulators put the needs of the utility above the consumer. The bigger bills will not only hurt ratepayers, but are a reminder of SDG&E’s stranglehold on the local energy market. Consumers need more choices on where and how they get their energy so they’re not at the mercy of the utility giant every time it wants to boost its bottom line.”

SDG&E justified their raise by stating, “Today’s decision by state regulators will allow us to continue to operate our natural gas and electricity systems safely and reliably and to increase system efficiencies and customer benefits through technology enhancements.  The delay in reaching today’s decision has been difficult for the company, but also will affect our customers. Because regulators delayed a decision for nearly a year and a half, SDG&E now is required to start collecting 20 months of additional revenue that should have been collected starting in 2012.  These “catch-up” costs mean customers will see a larger bill impact than if the rates had been adjusted on schedule.”

An article in today’s NBC San Diego states todays that around 350,000 of SDG&E’s customers recently received word that their bills would be going up. That article quotes Stephanie Donovan, of SDG&E, as saying the increase was due to “Higher costs of renewable power, more stringent environmental mandates and enhancements to SDG&E’s electrical infrastructure related to infrastructure, reliability and cybersecurity.”

There is also an up-to-date  rate schedule, on the SDG&E website, divides the county into 4 zones. Someone using 500 kWh:

  • on the coast will see an $18 increase, bringing their bill to about $131
  • more inland will see a $2 increase, bringing their bill to about $115
  • in the mountains will see a $2 increase, bringing their bill to about $98
  • in the desert will see a $2 increase, bringing their bill to about $97

Someone in East County forwarded the  following letter SDLG:

I am writing you today to share information regarding some of the region’s energy challenges, some important changes in the coming months, and some help in reducing the effect on your household.

While the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has created an untimely reduction in our region’s energy resources, we have taken steps to ensure a reliable supply of energy for the region. At the same time, we have revitalized our network with smart technology that will allow you to more efficiently control your energy use – especially during peak demand times. We have been increasing the supply of clean, renewable energy like solar and wind. And, we have made the ongoing delivery of energy more efficient through modernization and upgrades.

These are important investments to assure a continued high level of energy service for the future, but they do come with added expense. In addition, the cost of producing and delivering the renewable energy we all desire is more expensive than traditional sources. I am letting you know that as a result, about a quarter of our customers will see a noticeable increase in their bills in September.

What can you expect? Based on your historical energy use, you are likely to be affected by this increase. If your bill is typically around $100 a month, you will see an increase of about $15. If your bill is usually about $250 a month, you will see an increase of around $75.

We understand that increased costs can cause belt-tightening in any household. So you would be right in asking what we are doing to lower costs and operate as efficiently as possible on behalf of customers. Here are a few of the steps we have taken:

Switched out 90% of our passenger fleet vehicles to high-mileage or clean-energy vehicles
Installed smart switches on our electric system to help with service reliability
Saved over $2 million annually on paper and postage with online services
Cut our own energy and water consumption by over 20%
Substantially increased our ability to import lower-cost power into the region
We have set up a special website to provide more details on this upcoming change. I invite you to visit this site at www.sdge.com/2013Rates and if you have further questions, please call us toll-free at 855-846-7174.Our goal is to help all of our customers find ways to manage energy costs with efficiency programs, rebates and new energy management tools. In the coming weeks we will be communicating with you again, providing what I hope will be helpful information to meet your energy needs in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.Thank you.Sincerely,
Jessie J. Knight, Jr. Jessie J. Knight Jr.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

(Image at top of page: Sullivan Solar crew installing panels on rooftop)

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