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CPUC workshops begins, SDG&E discusses affordability

Governor Jerry Brown backs liability changes for California utilities
Posted at 5:20 PM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 20:20:35-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Monday morning, various panelists who are experts in utilities and energy are sharing ideas on how to improve California's utilities.

These conversations are monitored by the California Public Utilities Commission. The Commission is a group of 5 who are appointed by the Governor of California.

"We have many challenges ahead of us this year. And affordability needs to be at the top of that list, along with safety and reliability," said Commissioner Darcie L. Houck.

These hearings are one of the first steps, before the Commission could approve changes to how utilities operate.

"If handled incorrectly, California's policy goals could result in rate and bill increases, that would make our policy goals more difficult to achieve and could result in overall energy bills being un-affordable for Californians," said Commissioner Houck.

Utilities like SDG&E joined a panel Monday about funding. Topics of conversation included programs that help low-income customers, and the state's wildfire insurance fund plus more.

SVP for SDG&E suggested that the state pay for those public purpose programs instead of utility customers.

"The revenue requirement for PPP has increased about 140% over the past decade, about 9% each year," explains Scott Crider. "So by taking this action we could remove more than 350 million dollars in annual costs and reduce system costs by 6%. So what does that mean for the average family in San Diego? We could actually save about 90 dollars a year in bill savings."

One proposal that was brought up was to have those who live in predominantly fire threatened areas pay an additional surcharge. For SDG&E that is their Tier 3 customers.

Crider was the only one who voiced opposition against this proposal, "I just don't think it's fair for me and my neighbors to benefit from wildfire safety while more inland customers are ultimately paying more fees."

A separate proposal was focused specifically on rates. That panel discusses various of options, one of them being a fixed charge for customers based on income. It was something SDG&E believed could be a first step in rate reform.

"Customers are going to be hesitant to add more EV's [electric vehicles] and electric and space heating, if they were punished with higher bills after they were encouraged to use more electricity for appliances and transportation," said Crider. "The current structure is just not sustainable."

The workshops continue Tuesday. The CPUC could review the ideas presented throughout these two days, and discuss them later this month for final approval.