A proposed decision issued Wednesday (July 1) from the California Public Utilities Commission won't do much to quiet critics who argue that changes to San Diego Gas & Electric rate schedules will hurt low-income consumers and reward energy hogs.
The new decision reverses an earlier one that would have implemented an additional $10 fee to every utility customer's monthly bill before charges to power were added. Remaining intact, however, is a component of the plan that shrinks the total number of rate tiers that provide lower-cost electricity to consumers who use less of it.
The new plan would see steep rate hikes in excess of 20% for lower-use consumers, while those consuming large amounts of energy would see their rates drop as the most expensive rate tiers are eliminated, with a "super-user electric surcharge" applying only to those who use 400% or more of their baseline allowance.
The proposal has been widely panned by detractors, who say that 75 percent of customers would wind up paying more under the new rate structure; they say that those who've worked to conserve energy or install private renewable systems such as rooftop solar will, in effect, be punished.
"The Commission has shown it continues to take orders from the utilities at the expense of the public. The revised decision contains only nominal differences from the original, and continues to punish low energy users, hurt low income families, and discourage conservation," said the Sierra Club's Evan Gillespie on Wednesday in response to the revised ruling.
"The Commission deserves equally bad marks for public process, moving the vote to a holiday weekend when fewer eyes are on the outcome. It’s hard to view this move as anything other than yet another gift to the utilities when nobody's watching."
The new rate changes could take effect within 60 days of the proposed ruling's finalization, which is expected no later than November 1. Complete text of the ruling is available here.