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SDG&E WEBA Proposal Seeks Open-ended Rate Increases
San Diego Gas and Electric Company is seeking California Public Utilities Commission permission to raise rates for a new Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA) at the same time SDG&E also wants permission to cut power to county electricity customers during dry high wind conditions.
The rate increase proposal was filed jointly by SDG&E, Southern California Gas and other power utilities on August 31, 2009. After CPUC's initial denial of SDG&E's application to prevent wildfires by cutting power to residents, schools and water districts, SDG&E is now required to mediate with county stakeholders before advancing an amended wildfire prevention plan.
The proposed rate increase is not specified by amount, but the privately-held utilities pray for relief that CPUC allows them to recover all wildfire costs insurance would have covered if the companies had been able to find and pay for it, including legal expenses.
In the WEBA proposal, the utilities state that they "could reduce the cost of financing large WEBA undercollections by issuing securitized debt" even if the utilities are then forced to lobby California legislators and change laws to get it done. No mention was made in the joint application of reducing potential wildfire liabilities by increasing utility efforts to put all power lines underground.
In a related matter, SDG&E was recently ordered to apologize for investigatory obstruction and fined over $15 million after testimony to CPUC about the Sempra Energy utility's role in county wildfires from utility power lines.