SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - On Friday morning, investors woke up to welcome news from Sempra Energy, the parent company for SDG&E. Sempra Energy is reportedly paying out its biggest quarterly dividends ever. It's a jarring update for customers, who've been crippled by high energy bills.
"If San Diego Gas and Electric can afford to reward their shareholders with record-breaking profits and record-breaking dividends, they ought to be able to reduce rates, not raise them," said Mark Toney with The Utility Reform Network, a consumer advocacy group.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, as of last month, San Diego was paying the highest price per energy unit in the entire country.
SDG&E has blamed increases on higher natural gas prices, adding that our unusually cold winter months drove up usage for heating. The company has also pointed to climate-related expenses to meet California's goals for slashing greenhouse gas emissions.
"What we need to do if we want to decarbonize our economy is we need to bring the price of electricity down, not up," added Toney.
SDG&E has stated that is recognizes inflation is hitting San Diegans hard and reports that it's talking to stakeholders about solutions like trying to change legislation to cover certain programs that are currently paid through utility pills. It also reports that it's advocating with lawmakers and regulators to reform how rates are designed to make energy bills more predictable and affordable.
All rates paid by SDG&E customers are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission or (CPUC).
"The CPUC needs to be held accountable for affordable bills," Toney added.
ABC 10News reached out to Sempra Energy and the CPUC for comment. Sempra Energy reportedly forwarded our request to SDG&E which sent a statement that did not address the investor payout. The full statement is below.
SDG&E is committed to building a more sustainable and energy-secure future for our customers and the communities we serve. Every investment is made with our consumers’ best interest in mind as is evidenced by our efforts to help strengthen grid security and reliability during periods of high customer demand and extreme weather conditions. We recognize the importance of rate affordability and are working collaboratively with regulators and legislators to find solutions. SDG&E is supporting legislation (AB 2765) to remove some programs from utility bills as a way to provide rate relief to customers and pay for these programs through the state budget. AB2765 is slated to go before the Assembly Committee on Utilities & Energy for hearing on April 20.