Alma Soto was stunned when she got her January bill from San Diego Gas and Electric. It was over $400, even though she says her family has been turning out the lights and doing everything they can to keep costs down.
She studied her bill, and discovered something that puzzled her. The cost to deliver her electricity was three times the cost of the electricity itself.
Electric usage was $51.51, but delivering that usage was $150.90, which was 41% of Soto's total bill.
Soto's December bill was equally puzzling. Electric usage was just $39.77, but the electric delivery was 98.15
"It doesn't make sense to me at all because we're trying to save," Soto said, explaining that her family is constantly turning off lights, using energy-efficient bulbs and they even bought a new energy efficient refrigerator.
10News contacted SDG&E for answers, but communications manager Hanan Eisenman said because of privacy issues he couldn't talk about Soto's bill. He did tell us delivery charges are tied to usage and if a customer's usage is above the baseline then their electricity is delivered at a higher rate.
Don Kelley, Executive Director of the Utility Consumers Action Network offered a clearer explanation. He told us SDG&E and other California utilities are undergoing rate consolidation. Instead of having 4 rate tiers based on electric usage, SDG&E recently switched to 2 tiers.
Tier 2 rates are now almost double, said Kelley, and that means if your usage is even the smallest bit above tier one, you're now paying a lot more.
That appears to be what happened to Soto's bill. A portion of her family's usage is in tier 2.
"This is too much. We can't afford to pay all this," said Soto, who plans to reach out to SDG&E about ways to reduce usage and the bottom line on her electricity bill.
For information on how to reduce energy usage, or to take advantage of rebates for energy-efficient appliances go to: http://www.sdge.com/
If you have a complaint or problem with your utility company the California Public Utilities Commission may be able to help: http://consumers.cpuc.ca.gov/cab/