A combination of higher rates, record heat, and the new, state-mandated high usage charge has led to residential bills of $700 or higher. The high-usage tier kicks in when someone uses 400 percent of their baseline allowance.
"We recognize it's been a challenging summer, it's been really hot for long periods of time, and we're seeing a lot of customers hit a high usage charge," said SDG&E spokesman Wes Jones.
The high bills are causing some San Diego County residents to scramble.
Mark Najjar, who lives in El Cajon, said he had to borrow money to pay his $720 electric bill - which is normally half the price.
"I'm all, 'dang, what happened?' it didn't seem like we used that much," said Najjar. "I only used the portable air conditioner instead of the regular air conditioner because I thought it would be cheaper, but it wasn't."
SDG&E last set its baseline rates that determine the tiers in 2016. It is expected to adjust them incrementally through 2020.
Jones said he encouraged customers to call SDG&E and switch to a time-of-use plan, which does away with the high-usage tier. Instead, rates are highest between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., allowing customers to plan ahead.
He noted that SDG&E has sent out 460,000 high usage alerts since the new tier went into effect last November.
The 80,899 households reaching the high usage tier represents about 5.7 percent of the utility's 1.4 million residential customers. Jones said the 80,899 number is approximate and that a final amount would be released in November.