California Utility "sneaky" with rate : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Utility "sneaky" with rate Filed: 02/26/2001


The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO Hundreds of businesses that thought state law protected them from soaring open market electricity rates are discovering that they must pay top dollar for power anyway.

San Diego Gas and Electric Co. customers saw their electricity bills triple last summer after the utility ended a rate freeze and began passing on the full cost of electricity.

In response, the Legislature reinstated the freeze for residents, schools, hospitals and small businesses that use less than 100 kilowatts of electricity at any one time.

Now, however, the utility has changed how it determines which businesses get the better rate and some small firms are complaining they're paying the price.

Take the family-run Marie Callenders Restaurant and Bakery. David Cortina learned his business could be eligible for the rate cap, so he took out a loan and spent $30,000 on energy-efficient appliances.

He began using less than 100 kilowatts and assumed he would see the benefits on his next bill. But when his January bill arrived, Cortina owed $13,500 up more than $10,000 from the same period last year.

SDG&E told Cortina it does not consider his restaurant a small business because of the eatery's past power use.

"You get no benefit at all for tightening your belt in San Diego," Cortina said of SDG&E's plan after he explained his situation to the state Public Utilities Commission. "They're basing it on past history. ... To me, it's incredibly arbitrary and sneaky."

The utility's policy is that "if you have gone over 100 kilowatts nine out of the last 12 months, you're a large customer," said Ed Van Harrick, SDG&E spokesman.

He said of 1.2 million SDG&E electricity customers, 7,500 are large customers not covered by a rate cap.

Van Harrick said any business that stays under 100 kilowatts for four months could qualify for the rate cap.

SDG&E officials point out that they have an unpaid balance of $400 million that continues to grow since they cannot pass along high power costs to most of their customers.

That pricing structure is part of California's 1996 energy deregulation law that large businesses lobbied for but many believe has caused the state's energy crisis.

-- Martin Thompson (, February 26, 2001


This just goes to show what happens when politicians get into the act. This whole systems sounds ridiculous.

-- Uncle Fred (, February 26, 2001.

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