electric vehicles

Utilities Share Proposals to Reduce Energy Rate Increases

The California Public Utilities Commission held a workshop on affordable energy this week

NBC Universal, Inc.

After people across California saw their utility bills jump in January because of approved electric-rate and natural-gas increases, California's Public Utilities Commission held a workshop on affordable energy for two days this week.

"Our customers are demanding answers and solutions," said Scott Crider, the senior vice president of customer services and external affairs for San Diego Gas & Electric.

Some viewers told NBC 7 that their bills more than tripled in January. SDG&E told NBC 7 that was because natural-gas customers are paying the high market price, in addition to the rate increase and natural gas being used to generate electricity.

Utilities and advocacy groups alike all made proposals during the CPUC's workshop. Some of those included paying for wildfire programs out of the state's general fund, or paying for certain upgrade projects when homes or buildings are sold.

Crider told the CPUC that, if rates were to become more affordable, utilities need new sources of funding to meet climate goals.

"We are going to need more state and federal resources to reliably support the clean energy transition," Crider said. "We cannot do it on the backs of our customers alone using only the gas and electric bill to fund all the required programs, the mandates, the subsidies, the fees and infrastructure investments."

Other people proposed looking at older programs that utilities are required to pay for but might not be as efficient or up to date as newer programs.

"We haven't cleaned out some of the old programs that weren't as cost-effective," said Dan Skopec, the senior vice president of state government affairs and chief regulatory officer for the Southern California Gas Company and SDG&E. "Some [of those programs] were created by the commission, but others by the legislature, so it would take a combination of commission and legislative action to do so."

Crider told the commission that if the goal is to move California to using renewable power, the way customers are charged for electricity needs to change. He said the CPUC needs to change the rate-model it currently uses.

"It could be designed to address equity concerns, could help stabilize bills and enable electrification," Crider said. "Maintaining the status quo is not practical or affordable for customers."

Around two dozen proposals were heard by the CPUC in addition to comments from the general public. The commission said it would take a detailed look at the proposals and create it's own recommendation next year.

Contact Us