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California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Administrative Law Judge John Wong yesterday (March 29) posted his tentative decision in the San Diego Gas & Electric general rate case, which has been dragging on since December of 2010. Fasten your seat belt: For a typical all-electric residential SDGE customer using 500 kilowatt hours per month, "the customer's electric rates would go up about $6.55 per month, a 7.7% increase in monthly rates," says the proposed decision, which was posted yesterday on the CPUC website. This increase will allow SDGE to operate its electric and natural gas transmission system safely and reliably at reasonable rates, according to the tentative, decision, which will go to the commission at a later date. REASONABLE? Among other things, the big increase "provides necessary monies to allow SDGE to trim trees and brush away from overhead electric lines to lessen the danger of wildfires," according to the judge. This is interesting, because SDGE's inability to do just that was blamed in part for the 2007 wildfires. SDGE tried to get its ratepayers to pick up the uninsured damages from that fire, but thus far has failed, partly because of local outrage. (However, don't be certain the company won't sneak that attempted customer-fleecing back before the CPUC, and get approval, when nobody is looking.)

"It is gross that anybody would give SDGE a rate increase of that magnitude," says San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre, who fought the utility's attempt to stick ratepayers with costs of the fire for which the company was found responsible. He fears that the commission will "rubber stamp" Wong's recommendation. He points out that SDGE's rates are already among the highest in the nation, and the profits of parent Sempra are high among comparable utilities. The CPUC's main mission is to guarantee "high rates for the ratepayer, high dividends for the investors, excessive bonuses for the executives" as it falsely claims to regulate SDGE in the public interest, says Aguirre. He also finds it ironic that so-called watchdog groups will be filing for fat intervenor fees even as SDGE is likely to be granted these huge rate increases.

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Comments

HonestGovernment March 30, 2013 @ 4 p.m.

Whoa. Maybe I'd better respond to the online survey that I was invited to take:

Dear Valued Customer, SDG&E is exploring offering new options for electricity rate plans to its customers, and wants your input. SDG&E has contracted with HINER & Partners to conduct this survey. Please click on the link below and you will be taken to HINER's secure web site to complete the survey. The survey should take about 20 to 25 minutes of your time. We realize this is a lot to ask, but part of the survey is designed to educate you about potential new rates.

http://www.hinerpartners.com/isurveys/SWRRS35/cgi-bin/ciwweb.pl?studyname=SWRRS35&password=HMP7YL2NBO

Please use the link to complete the survey within the next 5 days. If you have any difficulties connecting to the web site or with completing the survey, please contact Luke Thelen of HINER & Partners at lthelen@hinerpartners.com. If you have any questions about the validity of the survey, please contact SDG&E's Jamie Loosbrock at jloosbrock@semprautilities.com.

Thank you in advance for participating in this important research.

Sincerely,

Steven J. Westberg Executive Vice President HINER & Partners, Inc. (562) 495-2436 ext 40

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Don Bauder March 30, 2013 @ 5:13 p.m.

HonestGovernment: I can't pick up the survey. When you fill it out, give SDGE your honest opinion of its service and, particularly, its rates for those services. Best, Don Bauder

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HonestGovernment March 30, 2013 @ 4:42 p.m.

Just took the survey: Expecting rate hikes soon, or plan options that include monthly service fees and demand charges. Yup.

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Don Bauder March 30, 2013 @ 5:15 p.m.

HonestGovernment: As I said, I cannot pick up the survey from my computer. But the administrative law judge's decision is a bad portent regarding a company, SDGE, that provides bad service for excessive prices. Best, Don Bauder

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HonestGovernment March 30, 2013 @ 7:31 p.m.

It was a pretty goal-driven survey. The focus was on finding out how much you are willing to pay, emphasizing that your rates could be less if willing to pay a monthly service fee and demand charge. I copied two pages:

Monthly Service Fees

• Typically based on the cost of providing certain services that all customers receive regardless of how much electricity they use, such as your connection to the grid, billing, customer service assistance, and communications.

• Other subscription-type services can have monthly fees, such cell phone plans, water service, etc.

• The price per kWh may be slightly lower than it would be on a rate structure without a monthly service fee.

• Can reduce your ability to save money by lowering or shifting your energy use, however, it can also help reduce your bills if you use a lot of energy.

How it Works

For example, with a $5 monthly service fee, you would pay $5 whether you use no electricity during the month or a lot of electricity. The $5 monthly service fee would be combined with your electricity per unit (kWh) charges.

• If your kWh charges were $95, with a $5 monthly service fee, your total charges would be $100.

• If your kWh charges were $0, your total charges would be $5.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________-
Please carefully look at all three rate plans and pick the rate plan that you prefer the most:

Time of Use Rate -3 periods: (Monthly Service Fee,$15.00; Demand Charge, $2.00) Off Peak Price ……$0.12 Part Peak Price……$0.13 On Peak Price ……$0.14

Time of Use Rate - 2 periods: (Monthly Service Fee,$0; Demand Charge, $0) Off Peak Price……$0.22 On Peak Price……$0.26

And so on... a very elaborate, sales-pitch-type survey.

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Don Bauder March 31, 2013 @ 7:30 a.m.

HonestGovernment: Admittedly, I am seeing only a fraction of this "survey." However, sales pitches are often disguised as surveys. Beware. That is always good advice with SDGE. Best, Don Bauder

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Sjtorres March 30, 2013 @ 7:10 p.m.

We don't allow anymore power plants; in fact we are closing San Onofre. Guess what? Supply and demand. This trend will continue. Blaming the service provider is asinine.

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Don Bauder March 31, 2013 @ 7:36 a.m.

Sjtorres: How do you know that San Onofre will be closed? This is still being fought out. You must also look at history. SDGE has had extremely high rates for decades, long before the current battles over new plants were taking place. The answer is rooftop solar, but SDGE's (and other utilities') attempt to make excessive profits from this stymies sensible change. Best, Don Bauder

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stingray March 30, 2013 @ 8:15 p.m.

It's a back door grab. Increasing rates to trim trees and brush. Thats the cost of doing business not a added cost. Crooked scheme facilitated by the CPUC.

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Don Bauder March 31, 2013 @ 7:37 a.m.

stingray: Agreed. One of many crooked schemes by the CPUC, which is concerned about utilities' profits and cares not a whit about consumers. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill March 31, 2013 @ 5:44 p.m.

Alan Greenspan may have made his mistakes, but I think he was definitely right about the concept of "moral hazard". If a business doesn't bear the cost for risky or unsafe decisions which save or make money in the short run, then that business will continue to make those risky/unsafe decisions.

What's even worse than the huge rate increases is the fact that decisions like this will encourage SDG&E and other utilities across the country to avoid expensive maintenance and safety upgrades because they know that after catastrophes they can pass on the costs to consumers.

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Don Bauder March 31, 2013 @ 7 p.m.

ImJustABill: Alan Greenspan was only one of many who have warned of moral hazard. And you are absolutely right: this is a case of moral hazard. SDGE gets rewarded for screwing up. Its shareholders should pick up the tab when management messes up. But if this is approved, the ratepayers will pay for mismanagement. Best, Don Bauder

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PalomarSolar April 4, 2013 @ 3:52 p.m.

This is what motivates us everyday. If you would like an alternative to these crazy rate hikes please take a look at investing in Solar.

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tomjohnston April 4, 2013 @ 8:26 p.m.

Perhaps you should have thought more carefully about what you wrote. Given the link you provide is to your own company, your comments comes off to me as you are motivated by making a lot of money from people switching to solar, not so much by helping people save money. But that's just me. I'm ALWAYS cynical of someone whose business is offering "help". BTW, Sunnova has been offering a 25 yr lease plan since last year.

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Don Bauder April 10, 2013 @ 4:26 p.m.

tomjohnston: I agree. That one by PalomarSolar smacks of an ad. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi April 6, 2013 @ 3:01 p.m.

From 1993 to 1999, Jessie Knight served as commissioner for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), after being appointed by then-Governor Pete Wilson. He is now Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SDG&E.

The "revolving door" business-as-usual needs to be put to a stop.

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Don Bauder April 10, 2013 @ 4:28 p.m.

Ponzi: Yes, the revolving door pollutes state and local government, as well as the federal government (SEC, DOJ, FTC, etc.) Remember that CPUC head Peevey was formerly president of Edison. Best, Don Bauder

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