On the third day of Christmas, everybody who got the Sunday paper got to see the front page story about the San Diego Foundation and the public poll it was spending $2 million on.

The SDF wants two things from us: it wants information on what we want to see in the way of urban improvements, and it wants the money to cover the costs of the poll.

Now, something about this model of coming out front and looking for public money to do something in public reminded me about how public utilities and their corporate owners never like to spend anything without knowing that utility ratepayers will be picking up the tab.

It took some doing, but I finally found a copy of the SDF 2008 annual report, and at the end of it were lists categorized by how much was being contributed to SDF by whomever.

Sure enough, San Diego Gas & Electric Company is listed in the top category of donors.

Sempra Energy, the investor in the investor-owned utility SDG&E, is in the second category of donors.

One may freely assume that if Sempra Energy had given enough or more to SDF to be in the same class as SDG&E, then Sempra Energy may have had to lower its target quarterly dividend to something less than the top end of 30-40% of earnings.

Back at SDF, it turns out that the poll will be used to set the direction of development here in San Diego looking forward to 2050 or so.

It turns out that a lot of the SDG&E Sunrise Powerlink proposal now being approved by the California Public Utilities Commission is driven by projections about long-term growth and development in San Diego County.

One thing that SDG&E included in its Sunrise Powerlink application to CPUC was the regulated utility's estimate that a typical residential solar installation would produce an average of 3.3 kilowatts of power. Left unsaid was the SDG&E assumption that all of these solar panel installations would be connected to the power grid under SDG&E's current exclusive-inclusive franchise agreement with San Diego.

Anybody who generates excess electricity from residential solar panels knows that those people never get paid for that excess electricity confiscated by SDG&E once SDG&E zeros out one's monthly electric bill. The zeroed-out ratepayers still get dinged for all of the incidental fees that CPUC allows SDG&E to collect, including fees to put power lines underground perhaps before the end of this century, or not.

What SDG&E does with the free excess electricity is anybody's guess, as it apparently has never been a CPUC issue before. Sempra Energy Trading has yet to make a public statement on the issue.

Nobody knows what will happen if many SDG&E customers start pulling their laptops, table lamps, DVD players or other small appliances off the grid by starting their own home solar setups at less than $300 each, then adding to those setups in small increments until only their largest appliances are left on the grid. My guess is that as long as SDG&E feels the need to increase rates on the consumers who conserve the most, then more and more ratepayers will simply produce their own off-grid electricity using the fusion power of the sun while avoiding the SDG&E confiscation of their excess electricity.

Some of these people who happen to be neighbors might actually form electricity cooperatives as long as they don't have to cross the street with an extension cord.

Or maybe I'm connecting these dots in the wrong order...

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