San Diego

Customers Shocked Over High-Usage Fee, SDG&E Looking to Get Rid of It

The high-usage charge was something the California Public Utility Commission instituted last year

Thousands of San Diego Gas and Electric customers were furious over their high electric bill this summer and the utility company said it is doing something about it.

This past summer's heat wave took a major toll out of the pocketbook of a lot of SDG&E customers. Customers such as Cate Helm of Chula Vista.

"Our normal month (bill) is maybe $60 to $90," she said.

That was until this summer's heat wave kicked in and Helm was slapped with a high-usage fee. July was sweltering and August was the hottest month on record.

"Yeah, we’ve heard a lot of concerns and frustrations from our customers," SDG&E spokesman Wes Jones Said.

Helm's bill shot up to $455. 

"I thought, ‘Maybe there was a mistake,’" she said. "Then once I called the company and they explained that everything was correct, I was pretty much outraged."

The high-usage charge was something the California Public Utility Commission instituted last year. It charges customers a much higher rate if they use four times the amount of electricity they were allotted for each month.

Jones said more than 80,000 people were hit with the high-usage charge. He said the company is petitioning the CPUC to get rid of the fee.

"We’re going to be looking to get rid of it," he said. "Any relief we can provide I’m sure our customers will be happy to receive."

The higher rate forced Helm to be militant when it comes to energy use. She unplugged all the lamps in her home that aren't being used, reduced the light bulbs needed in each room -- whatever it takes to lower her energy cost.

And it worked. 

"We went from $455 to our next bill was only $93," she said.

But Helm still can't forgive SDG&E for what it did.

"(The bills) had spiked for everyone in Chula Vista," Helm said. "They took all trust that we had to begin with them."

She said whatever SDG&E did was not enough because it was unwilling to help when it mattered most.

"More people need to continue speaking up about these charges," she said. "Even if they're going to decrease and take that back. That trust is gone."

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