SDG&E executive 'empathetic' to difficult summer rates hitting customers

Posted at 5:58 PM, Sep 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-05 21:15:31-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego Gas and Electric's Chief Operating Officer says she is completely empathetic to the difficult summer its customers are having and that the utility does not make a profit off high electricity.

Caroline Winn, SDG&E's chief operating officer, said in an interview that the company understands that residents and small businesses are struggling in the wake of outrageously high electric bills.

10News spoke to multiple small businesses in San Diego that said they are reducing hours after getting bills as high as $4,000 from SDG&E.

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"We're a good company, we want to help you, we don't make any money on the sale of electricity," Winn said. 

Winn said the utility makes money by investing in infrastructure projects and getting a rate of return approved by the Public Utilities Commission.

She says projects in the last year to help prevent wildfires, such as changing out wood poles to steel ones, are part of the reason rates went up. Some are now as high as 28.5 percent above the same time in 2017.

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Meanwhile, Winn said record heat has meant air conditioners are working overtime, leading to higher bills. 

"We can go in and help small businesses. We'll do an audit. We'll help them be more energy efficient," Winn said. 

But multiple small business owners are expressing anger toward the utility because they have no alternative. 

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Brad Keiller, who owns Nomad Donuts in North Park, says he's now closing up shop at 1 p.m. because he can't afford the SDG&E higher rates in the afternoon. He recently got hit with a roughly $4,000 bill. 

"That notice comes and you really have to quickly do your math and decide if it's worth it to stay open," said Keiller, who would prefer to be open and promote his Nomad Bagels for lunch.

At Small Bar two miles north, owner Karen Barnett says she has stopped serving breakfast some days after bills that are as high as $4,000. She says she can't turn off her air conditioning because customers will leave, and the refrigeration system needs to be on to keep food and beer fresh. 

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"It's frustrating when you see bills like this because your hands are tied," she said. "You have to pay these bills."

SDG&E says it offers free audits for Small Businesses to help with energy efficiency. They can call 800-411-7343.