CPUC authorizes rate increase for San Diego Gas and Electric; Customers to see higher bills

High customer bills may arrive by Sept. 1

SAN DIEGO - Bills for San Diego Gas & Electric customers will rise as soon as Sept. 1 after the California Public Utilities Commission authorized a $123.4 million rate increase for the company.

The CPUC said a typical electric customer's bill could increase about 12.2 percent, or $9.95 per month, while households that receive natural gas would have to pay an extra 9.6 percent per month, or around $3.55.

The CPUC estimates are based on use of 500 kilowatt hours per month of electricity and 33 therms of gas per month.

The rate increase was $116 million less than SDG&E requested, the agency reported. The utility will be allowed $1.73 billion in revenue annually through 2015.

Increases were also authorized for the Southern California Gas Company, which, like SDG&E, is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy.

A statement from the regulating agency said the increases will allow the utilities to maintain, replace, and improve aging infrastructure, and to operate their systems in a safe and reliable manner.

"Safety and reliability do not come free," said Commissioner Mark Ferron. "While we must do our best to contain costs, we do have to spend some more on safety and reliability."

The utilities will be required to invest $170.5 million in gas transmission and distribution integrity management systems, according to the CPUC. The agency recently recommended a record $2.25 billion fine for a natural gas explosion in 2010 in San Bruno, near San Francisco. Eight people died as a result of that explosion.

The CPUC said that if the utilities don't need to spend all $170.5 million, the savings will be returned to customers.

The commissioners established financial incentives to SDG&E to exceed target levels for electric reliability and monetary punishment if the utility falls short of the goals. They also voted to reduce authorized pension contributions by more than $15 million for SDG&E and by more than $32 million for SoCalGas.

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