SDG&E wants to eliminate high-usage charge

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - This record hot summer was the first that San Diegans had to pay the state's new high-usage charge on their electric bills. 

It led to bills as high as $700, and complaints pouring into San Diego Gas and Electric. 

Now, the utility says the charge - meant to discourage high use - isn't working and should be eliminated.

"We want to move forward to eliminate this charge and help our customers," said SDG&E spokesman Wes Jones.

Jones said the utility understands the frustration over summertime bills. Nearly 81,000 households were hit with the high-usage charge in August, a month with record heat.

RELATED: Making It in San Diego: Families stunned by high electric bills

"We heard from folks that they needed that much energy to run their A/C and tried to stay cool," Jones sadi. "We think that's very important. We want to make sure they are comfortable."

SGG&E now plans to ask the state Public Utilities Commission to eliminate the charge altogether.

"You hopefully will see a reduced shock and awe bill," Jones said.

But questions remain about the proposal. 

The high-usage tier is just 7 cents more per kilowatt hour than the next lower tier. And by the time someone passes the high-usage threshold, they're already paying an 80 percent premium on electricity, at a price of 43 cents per kilowatt hour.

RELATED: San Diego Gas and Electric addresses high power bills

SDG&E would have to adjust those lower tiers if the state adopted its plan. 

"To me, it feels like you're on the street in New York and someone's moving a cup around with the ball in it. You don't know where it is and what's going on," said Jeff Tarzia, a Poway resident.

Tarzia began driving for Uber after his family got hit with a $500 electric bill in August.

"As it stands right now I think they need to go to a more simplistic layout for the billing cycle," Tarzia said,.

But Jones said the plan is not cosmetic. SDG&E also wants to expand options, like qualifying customers with plans that have lower rates - like the ones for those with electric cars. 

SDG&E also proposes to change its scheduled cash credits to all hit in August to help with the year's most expensive months.

The utility will also ask the Public Utilities Commission to review its baseline rates - which sets tiers from the coast to the mountains. SDG&E also hopes to combine summer and winter prices for a lower year round rate. 

SDG&E plans to submit the proposal to the commission in the coming months. A spokeswoman for the commission said the agency would evaluate how to consider the options through a public process. 

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