June 2014 residential rates for 1000 kilowatt hours
  • June 2014 residential rates for 1000 kilowatt hours
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Utility regulators are noting all around the country that since corporate tax rates have been lowered from 35 percent to 21 percent, utilities should pass on those savings to ratepayers.

Don’t expect your San Diego Gas & Electric bills to go down. Its parent, San Diego–based Sempra Energy, hasn’t paid corporate taxes since 2008. Sempra officially says, “Sempra Energy is evaluating the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

Ha-ha. Here’s how this story unfolds. Recently, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy calculated that 18 Fortune 500 companies had not paid corporate taxes for several years. One of those companies was Sempra. It had not paid corporate taxes from 2008 through 2015. Between those years, Sempra had earned $7 billion in profit but received $34 million back from the government, for a yearly tax rate of minus 0.5 percent.

Amber Albrecht

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Sempra admitted this to the Union-Tribune, saying it had used legal means to avoid taxes in those years. I called Sempra and said I wanted to know if it had paid those taxes in 2016 and 2017. I got a return message from Amber Albrecht, a senior public relations executive, who said that certain incentives “reduced Sempra Energy’s federal tax liabilities in 2016 and 2017.”

I wrote her back and said that didn’t answer my question. Did Sempra pay any corporate taxes in 2016 and 2017? She wrote back and confessed: Sempra had not paid corporate taxes in those two years either.

Then she wrote back and made this outlandish claim: “Any tax benefits at Sempra Energy’s two California utilities are passed on to customers, resulting in lower rates for our customers.”

“Utter hogwash and balderdash!” I screamed, but only to myself. I sent Albrecht some items I had written showing that SDG&E has had the consistently highest rates in the nation. The Jacksonville Electric Authority regularly publishes rates charged by U.S. utilities. Quarter after quarter over a number of years, SDG&E’s rates were either the highest or almost the highest in the land. After I wrote about that, SDG&E stopped providing the rates to Jacksonville, which confirmed that corporate artifice to me.

Southern California Public Power Authority published a chart on residential rates for 1000 kilowatts in 2014. SDG&E’s rates were $374. Second was Pacific Gas & Electric at $271. Rates of municipal utilities were around half of the rates of the three investor-owned California utilities. Richard Rider of San Diego Tax Fighters, using data he got from inside SDG&E, said in 2013 that SDG&E residential rates were 62 percent higher than the median-priced utility in the Jacksonville survey.

I asked Albrecht to respond by 11 a.m. West Coast time. After I heard nothing, I emailed and asked if she would respond. She said she had passed it on to SDG&E. I have still not heard a word from SDG&E.

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Comments

swell Jan. 18, 2018 @ 5:46 p.m.

But she's a pretty gal, Don. Have you noticed that the spokespeople from many big corporations and government offices are pretty women? While the officers and boards of those organizations are balding white men, the mouthpiece is a pretty gal. No doubt these women are highly educated in their field (whatever field that is), but I think you'd have to go to the movie or music industry to find such a high percentage of lovely ladies. Yes, I'm not a journalist. I'm just a common citizen so I can say the outrageous things that journalists dare not.

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Don Bauder Jan. 18, 2018 @ 7:31 p.m.

swell: Yes, she is attractive, but I didn't know that because I only dealt with her by email. I don't know how competent she is in PR, but she should not have thrown me the juicy meat claiming that Sempra's companies pass tax savings on to customers. She must not have known that SDG&E's rates have been consistently the highest, or among the highest, rates in the nation. She was throwing me a punchline like Abbott used to throw them to Costello. (I will bet few readers are old enough to remember Abbott and Costello.)

Believe it or not, I got my Master's degree from Scott Cutlip at the Universite of Wisconsin-Madison in public relations in 1960. Cutlip and Allen Center co-authored the dominant PR text of those days. I used to quote both Cutlip and Center (who retired to Rancho Bernardo) in my U-T columns when PR subjects came up. Both are long deceased now, but I did remain close to Cutlip until his death. My first four years out of grad school I spent in PR and advertising. I quickly figured that this was no place for a grouchy skeptic. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan Jan. 18, 2018 @ 7:40 p.m.

Come ON, swell. You clearly are not concerned with the educational level of this "pretty gal mouthpiece" and the tone of your creepy comment is worthy of a #MeToo. Ew.

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Don Bauder Jan. 18, 2018 @ 8:23 p.m.

monaghan: You will be happy to know that I will be marching in the pussy hat parade Saturday. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan Jan. 18, 2018 @ 11:05 p.m.

I am happy to know that, but I am not surprised. Doubtless other male Reader writers will join you in solidarity. Just don't refer to women marchers as gals or pussies.

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Don Bauder Jan. 19, 2018 @ 7:31 a.m.

monaghan: The female marchers I know are proud to wear their pussy hats. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan Jan. 19, 2018 @ 4:09 p.m.

Don, I know you are amused by this badinage, and I know you know there's a big difference between a cute hat with a funny name and calling women by their genitalia. But d---s like swell? He seems to insist on objectifying women by focussing on their physical appearance.

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Don Bauder Jan. 19, 2018 @ 9:44 p.m.

monaghan: OK. The Women's March. I am marching in it Saturday. My wife and our friends will wear what they proudly and laughingly (at the president) call their pussy hats. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat Jan. 20, 2018 @ 12:49 p.m.

I'm guessing that's in Colorado, not in San Diego. :-)

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swell Jan. 19, 2018 @ 9:37 a.m.

monaghan: Oh darn, did I forget to mention the TV weather girls? Yes, they are remarkably like corporate spokeswomen. Trained too, with a 6 week course in meteorology. So: competent and good looking; what's not to like? Actually I met a number of these women in my Journalism 101 course at SDSU. This class had roughly 8 men and 22 gorgeous women. I thought it odd that journalism was so interesting to women until I discovered that their main interest was to get in front of a camera.

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Don Bauder Jan. 19, 2018 @ 10:52 a.m.

swell: When I was younger, I did a. lot of TV in San Diego. The female TV anchors were almost uniformly good-looking, but not strikingly beautiful. As I said, I worked in PR and advertising in Chicago for four years, and the women I worked with were obviously not hired for their looks.

In the early 1990s, I had a one-week stint lecturing in both the business and journalism schools at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I did notice that the coeds in PR at the time appeared to be more physically attractive. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 19, 2018 @ 10:55 a.m.

swell; The male TV anchors tend to be handsome, just as the female anchors tend to be attractive. I don't have a problem with that. Television is a visual medium. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi Jan. 21, 2018 @ 1:48 p.m.

Don, please post a photo of you in your pussy hat!

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Don Bauder Jan. 21, 2018 @ 4:48 p.m.

Ponzi: I marched, but I didn't wear the pink hat. I think that is a woman's prerogative. My hat is blue. Best, Don Bauder

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AlexClarke Jan. 21, 2018 @ 7:23 a.m.

The most notable exception is Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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Don Bauder Jan. 21, 2018 @ 12:18 p.m.

AlexClarke:Yes, but she makes up for her lack of good looks by being every bit as much a liar as her boss, Trump. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan Jan. 18, 2018 @ 7:32 p.m.

Don, what do you know about Arcadia Power? They claim to take over your utility bills and provide customers a lower rate than SDG&E charges. How does Arcadia fit into the plan to get our city council to approve community-based utility rates? Where is the Sierra Club on Arcadia? What's the consumer to do?

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Don Bauder Jan. 18, 2018 @ 7:42 p.m.

monaghan: Offhand, I don't know Arcadia Power. I have written a column about the cities that want to operate jointly with SDG&E -- each taking certain duties, with costs coming down.

Sempra Energy regularly boasts about its high stock price and high revenue. The company, parent of SDG&E, is just asking for a consumer revolt by doing such bragging, particularly in its annual letter to shareholders, and has aroused ratepayers. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 18, 2018 @ 7:36 p.m.

Jim Dwight: Au contraire. There are several groups protesting the predations of SDG&E. Many want to set up municipal utilities, which would share duties with SDG&E, but keep costs down. Many are pushing the most sensible reform, rooftop solar, which SDG&E and other utilities are fighting. Many groups are pushing environment-friendly power. SDG&E claims it is doing that, too. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 19, 2018 @ 11:38 a.m.

Le Le: Sorry. I didn't hear yesterday's speech. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat Jan. 19, 2018 @ 5:59 p.m.

In my dealing with PR people over the years, many (not all) tended to have fake smiles like used car salespeople. They smiled as they told "tall tales" through their sparkling teeth.

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Don Bauder Jan. 20, 2018 @ 6:50 p.m.

Visduh: Yes, dwbat described the mayor. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat Jan. 20, 2018 @ 7:37 p.m.

Who got his training at PR firm Porter Novelli.

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Don Bauder Jan. 21, 2018 @ 12:19 p.m.

dwbat: True. He was with a PR firm. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 19, 2018 @ 9:49 p.m.

dwbat: However, PR people have to be careful today. If they work for a publicly-held company, the PR people better not make a sweet statement that is contradicted by statements in a prospectus, proxy statement, annual report, SEC report. I find that PR people when asked a question tend to say they will get back to me. Then, often with a big delay, there comes a statement that was obviously written by somebody in the financial or legal department. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi Jan. 21, 2018 @ 1:47 p.m.

I installed solar panels in 2015 and own the system. My electric bill used to run about $130 a month to $200 a month in the summer. Now I have no electric bill, and usually have a small credit on the “true-up date” (SDG&E ratepayers that have solar only pay their bill once a year, if they owe anything).

One of the reasons I have no power bill is because I also receive a $200 credit because I drive an electric car. If not for that credit, I would probably pay about $150 for the year. Yes, the house and car are powered on solar. You almost forget how to use a gas pump when you never have to stop for gas.

There have been other investments in conservation; every light in the home, including garage lights and outdoor lights are LED. Insulation was added in the attic, attic fans to release heat in the summer, and double-pane windows. I replaced all the major appliances to high efficiency models, including a variable-speed HVAC system and Energy Star rated refrigerator. There was a noticeable drop in energy usage when I replaced all the lights with LED as well as they don’t burn out as nearly as frequently as halogen or incandescent. This doesn’t mean you can just leave all the lights on. I conserve shutting off lights, use motion sensors and timers to control many lights. No electric bill can be achieved.

Of course I do have a natural gas bill for the water heaters, stove-tops and central air. It’s an enjoyable feeling to not write a check to SDG&E for power.

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Don Bauder Jan. 21, 2018 @ 4:55 p.m.

Ponzi: Hurrah for you. Rooftop solar is the answer, in my judgment. But you have moved in the right direction with other initiatives. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi Jan. 21, 2018 @ 6:39 p.m.

Thank you Don. I just wanted to share that so show it is possible to become somewhat energy independent. My concerns in the future are what roadblocks SDG&E and other utilities will create to slow the solar energy progress. There is also a good argument from the utilities that they still need to supply energy during the night (although battery storage will answer that in the future) as well as the cost of being serviced by the grid. The grid needs to be maintained. Perhaps the utilities should be investing more in storage and grid upgrades and less in generation projects. Either way, the old generation models are slowly dying - like nuclear.

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Don Bauder Jan. 21, 2018 @ 9:46 p.m.

Ponzi: It's not just SDG&E putting up roadblocks to solar. Utilities all around the country are pursuing the same strategy because a big movement to solar will dent their profits significantly. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan Jan. 21, 2018 @ 7:40 p.m.

It would be wonderful not to write a check to SDG&E. but Ponzi's described program must have cost a king's ransom, taken a lot of informed planning and a long time to make happen. Want to share about those hurdles? Also, I have heard that solar panels on the roof require frequent cleaning upkeep. What is the truth about that? The idea of cleaning roof panels as well as gutters puts me in a negative frame of mind. Also, I would like to hear from any conservation-minded Reader-reader about Arcadia Power.

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Ponzi Jan. 21, 2018 @ 9:08 p.m.

monaghan, I shared/hijacked the thread to help people understand there is a way out of under the utilities thumb. But it does take money and planning. I started on the project 5 years ago with the insulation. Then replaced the windows with double-pain. Although in our temperate climate the replacement windows don’t make much a dent in energy savings but they do eliminate noise. I live near a flight path and I don’t hear as much annoying aircraft noise.

The LED lights, maybe $500, and then they never seem to burn out. The appliances, I used SDG&E and water rebates. The AC system was 20 years old; I had to replace it –that was $8,000. About $5,000 to replace every major appliance with rebates. This is over a five-year period.

Then the solar panels. I attended an 80-hour night course at Cuyamaca College in photovoltaic systems. I then volunteered for a non-profit call GRID Alternatives. I did a couple of real world installs for low-income communities and one install on a Tribal community. I learned enough to know what to do and made some contacts. I designed my own system, got SDG&E to buy off on it, go a city permit and ordered the materials from a supplier in Kearny Mesa (CED Greentech). I’ve always done my own electrical work so I did all the electrical except the tie-in to the meter where I had a licensed contractor friend do the inspection and then go over it with the inspector.

A laborer, friend and I installed all the rails, micro-inverters and panels on a Saturday. We completed everything the next Sunday morning. We tested the system and then shut it down… to wait for the city inspector and then SDG&E to set-up the solar account. About 60 days in 2015.

22 panels with 22 Enphase micro-invertors ran about $11,000.00 and you can take some federal rebates and tax incentives. Of course the industry is hot so companies have high mark-ups. But if you can DIY you can do it for around $10,000…..

I have taken the time to elaborate on this subject because I hope more people look into it. There is not any “technology” to roof-top solar. People generally seem to be afraid of electricity or the new generation, tools. I think it was easier and faster for me to install my own solar system than it was when I tiled a bathroom.

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monaghan Jan. 21, 2018 @ 9:24 p.m.

Ponzi, you are amazing to have accomplished this feat and wonderful for having shared it here. I am so impressed. May others follow in your footsteps! Many thanks. (Though I still want to hear from somebody about Arcadia Power.)

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2018 @ 7:25 p.m.

Monaghan: I guess I should be ashamed. I follow utilities closely, yet for the life of me Arcadia Power is something I can't retrieve from my brain. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat Jan. 22, 2018 @ 6:19 p.m.

"double-pain"?? That's what we get when we pay our outrageous SDG&E bill! Windows are double pane! ;-)

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2018 @ 7:26 p.m.

dwbat: I wish I would have thought of that. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 21, 2018 @ 9:51 p.m.

monaghan: What I fear is that the utilities will get politicians to cut back sharply on solar incentives, and take other steps to thwart solar. Utilities have powerful and rich lobbyists. And then there are governors like Jerry Brown who veto legislation intended to reform the utility/regulator coziness. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan Jan. 21, 2018 @ 10:22 p.m.

I think Ponzi's example is to think, plan and act independently when it is politically advantageous to do so. His is a great achievement that could be approximated, if not replicated, by others. But you are quite right, Don, the corrupt Public Utilities Commission will continue after their good friend Governor Brown leaves office, and San Diegans may continue to pay and pay exorbitant prices for traditional forms of energy from SDG&E.

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2018 @ 9:48 p.m.

monaghan: The CPUC was created to protect consumers from utilities. Now it protects utilities from consumers. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2018 @ 10:39 a.m.

monaghan: I am afraid you are right. After Brown and the current leader of the CPUC leave office, the corruption and stench at the CPUC will remain. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 25, 2018 @ 11:41 a.m.

Martin Jordan: Agreed: rooftop solar is the best of several alternatives. Best, Don Bauder

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