Utility rate increases bring out support, criticisms

OCEANSIDE — Kudos and complaints were voiced at public hearings on SDG&E rate increases held at the Civic Center Library Oct. 13. The hearings hosted by the California Public Utilities Commission gave SDG&E customers an opportunity to have their voices heard by commission representatives before a four-year rate schedule is approved. It was one of eight hearings held in San Diego County.
Service organizations, chamber of commerce representatives and businesses praised SDG&E for its community involvement and financial partnership in environmental and education programs.
Andy Phemister, CEO of the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce, credited SDG&E with helping San Marcos small businesses control energy costs with smart meters and recommendations for cost efficient lighting, heating and refrigeration.
David Nydegger, CEO of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, gave kudos to SDG&E for its partnership with the chamber in recognizing teachers, honoring local marines and other community events.
“SDG&E is a great partner,” Nydegger said.
Homeowners however opposed the increases and said the current rates are already too high.
Congressional candidate David Secor, who is running for the 50th district, protested the increases and added that SDG&E rates are the highest in the nation.
Proposed increases will raise bills by 3 percent. A customer who presently pays $82 a month can expect to pay $86.32 if increases are approved.
Increases will cover fixed costs of operations and funding of upgrades and innovative technology that will help assure a reliable supply of energy. Planned improvements include replacement of 1,000 wood utility poles with steel poles to reduce fire risk, a change out of current meters with digital smart meters that customers can read and interact with online, and a smart grid system that can self analyze problems and reroute power.
Also on the table was proposed changes in the rate design that will recategorize billing charges. Solar users objected to billing changes that will open the door for them to be charged to use the SDG&E grid.
“I’m high offended,” Joan Brubaker, Oceanside resident, said. “You’re penalizing people when we supply energy.”
Brubaker has six solar panels that power her home. Her current utility bill is $100 per year.
Website links to SDG&E’s application and testimony can be found at sdge.com under rates and regulations, proceedings.
Documents filed with the California Public Utilities Commission can be found at cpuc.ca.gov under docket card filing period 2010.

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