San Diego residential power customers and small businesses are facing hard times in this economy, and a big part of that problem for the foreseeable future can be found in two rate proposals by San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E). Sempra Energy's SDG&E is the City of San Diego electricity franchisee that pays merely three percent of gross receipts to the City of San Diego as its annual franchise fee under an agreement with City Council members dating back to 1970. In return for that fee, the California Public Utilities Commission grants Sempra Energy the right of a utility holding company to take its share of SDG&E profits, profits that CPUC recognizes could have been put to use by SDG&E if it did not have to turn that money over to Sempra Energy. (See INTERIM OPINION ON MEANING OF FIRST PRIORITY CONDITION below)

The first of the SDG&E proposals is actually part of a joint application to CPUC by Southern California Edison components, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, and SDG&E (known as investor owned utilities or IOUs to CPUC). Under the joint application, SDG&E and the other named utilities are seeking authority to bill customers for utility uninsured wildfire legal expenses and other utility uninsured wildfire costs. The Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA) application is opposed by two CPUC divisions, the Division of Ratepayer Analysts (CPUC DRA) and the Consumer Protection and Safety Division (CPUC CPSD). DRA and CPSD oppose WEBA for a number of reasons, but two stand out: (1) WEBA is an open-ended consumer liability for wildfires that utilities will not or cannot get insured, and (2) there is no reasonableness test to prevent utility negligence from driving costs up for consumers through those WEBA billings to customers. (See RULING OF THE ASSIGNED COMMISSIONER AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE DIRECTING APPLICANTS TO AMEND... below)

The second SDG&E proposal is the PeakShift at Work (PSW targeted at small businesses) and PeakShift at Home (PSH for residential customers) to provide a cost-incentive through higher business hour rates, so that residential renters, homeowners and small businesses reduce energy consumption during business hours in favor of using power at night or on weekends. Plainly, this makes small businesses less competitive during ordinary business hours than larger SDG&E industrial-sized customers. (See APPLICATION OF SAN DIEGO GAS & ELECTRIC COMPANY (U 902 E)... below) About the only thing residents and small business owners can do if we want to not pay peak electricity rates during the day is to generate our own off-grid power to use on our own and maybe share cooperatively with our neighbors. It only adds insult to injury that SDG&E wants us to pay $118 million to SDG&E for its advertising to us what a good deal PSW/PSH is for Sempra Energy shareholders.

There are political considerations here. Earlier this year, PG&E spent over $30 million in advertising support for its constitutional amendment proposal, Proposition 16. It lost, demonstrating that power utilities are not automatic winners whenever they have to face voters in an open election. After all, a public election is a much different venue than meeting with CPUC commissioners over dinner at a San Francisco premium jazz club or in a Hawaiian spa and resort, something previously revealed and discussed by the Turko Files.

Our City Council members are scrambling to add a sales tax increase to the November ballot, but none of them is on the record about SDG&E 3% annual franchise fee. If that fee were raised to 20% until all of the power lines were underground in San Diego County, then both Sempra Energy and SDG&E would have the proper incentive to get that job done, make us safer from wildfires, and restore some sense of order to the City/franchisee arrangement.

If our City Council members are not up to the job of closing that $70 million a year budget deficit, then maybe it is time for the voters to have their say in approving a new contingent franchise fee until the job gets done.





Founder July 25, 2010 @ 1:20 p.m.

As usual "Superior" Blog Post... Thank You!

A few things:

  1. "It only adds insult to injury that SDG&E wants us to pay $118 million to SDG&E for its advertising to us what a good deal PSW/PSH is for Sempra Energy shareholders." This is the new trend in both the Private and Public Sector, spending lots of "our own" money telling us (usually with MAJOR SPIN) why we should vote a certain way WITHOUT telling US how much money we are gong to make their shareholders at our expense.

  2. "maybe it is time for the voters to have their say in approving a new contingent franchise fee" I wish all these issues were explained to the Public, discussed publicly and then voted on because we, the folks that live in San Diego, are losing our Quality of Life by not being more involved in how our decision makers vote and or "RUN" our City. This is now happening everywhere and is becoming the new SOP (no pun intended)!

  3. It is outrageous that SDG&E continues to pay folks that have Solar Panels (and generate energy that is added to the grid) LESS that what SDG&E charges for that exact same energy! Our Rep's and the CPUC have allowed our "PUBLIC" monopoly's to enrich their stockholders instead of dong what they are supposed to do, provide low cost energy for all at a fair rate...


Founder July 25, 2010 @ 2:01 p.m.

Sorry I left three other things out:

  1. The "under-grounding" that we are already paying for is turning into a nightmare for home owners in Mid City because now HUGE ugly utility boxes (and sometimes more that one!) are being placed in front of folks homes! These boxes are not only on the side of the sidewalk but often right in the middle of the sidewalk. I suggest everybody contact SDG&E and ask them when your neighborhood is going to be "BLIGHTED" by your own tax dollars! These boxes are the BLIGHTING substitute for the underground "Vaults" that we promised when we were told about the under-grounding in the first place!

  2. I just found out that the transmission lines for the new Sunrise link will not be under-grounded as a cost savings to SDG&E stockholders... One of the reasons that we were told that San Diego needed that project was to protect US from downed lines due to either fires, earthquakes or other worse events, yet now they want to do a half way job and not bury those new lines! Anybody know where we can go for a refund?

  3. If SDG&E paid each person generating energy the same amount as what they are going to charge for that same energy at the time that energy is put into or taken out of the Grid then San Diego would have zillions of small but reliable energy producers (instead of one Huge Monopoly), which would be safer and more economical for all of US.


MsGrant July 25, 2010 @ 2:45 p.m.

Orwellian. Makes me want to live off the grid.


Founder July 25, 2010 @ 6:58 p.m.

Regarding #3 I agree, MSG.

-- Bill Shock --

Only I'd suggest using "Brazil-ian rather than your choice of "Orwellian"...

Many Readers here, have seen that old "Brazil" movie, not George's great old one "1984", you see;

besides the smelly pulsating tubes reminds me of our Governments ruse!

The CPUC, is a just front you see, for additional billing of you and me;

It is really making me very sick for them to get away with that "cheap" trick!

If it was not for their big spoof, we'd all have Solar on our roof!

What they now charge is not really funny especially when they "RIP" our money!

So call all the rate paying people you know, and have them also say, "It should not be so"...


a2zresource July 25, 2010 @ 7:53 p.m.

RE #1.2:

I previously posted a blog that included a sample voter initiative, increasing the 3% electricity franchise fee to 20% until CPUC or some other responsible agency certified that all power lines were underground, then the fee would return to its current level.


a2zresource July 25, 2010 @ 7:59 p.m.

RE #1.1:

For those that question the $118 million for advertising and other consumer education measures, see page 6 of the APPLICATION... FOR DYNAMIC PRICING... and take your blood pressure meds first.


a2zresource July 25, 2010 @ 8:10 p.m.

RE #3 "Orwellian. Makes me want to live off the grid.":

I have a number of posts along those lines...

Essentially, I am looking at setting up 10 or more Harbor Freight 45-watt solar panel kits in the backyard, generating about 400+ watts of electricity, enough for a 200+ watt energy efficient refrigerator (without cold beverages, there can be no civilization), some CFL lighting with a few table lamps, and keeping my laptop & printer happy. Total cost for this off-grid setup ought to run about $2500 or less.

The reason I don't recommend home improvement grid-connected solar panels is because that's a federal regulatory game I'm not ready to put up with, and by recently amended California law, only the first 5% of all customers who jump through all of the state and federal regulatory hoops to get paid for their excess electricity will actually get paid.

I'm pretty sure I blogged about that before as well...

On the other hand, the current rate increase proposals by SDG&E and defending residential and small business ratepayers are pretty good reasons to bring it all back up.


Founder July 25, 2010 @ 9:10 p.m.

Regarding #8


Get a grip Before you slip!

Are you for doing nothing new at all And suggesting "Just More Black Oil"?

Solar is the new way, no matter what you say!


a2zresource July 25, 2010 @ 9:16 p.m.

RE #8:

I honestly recommend that you subscribe to the California Public Utilities Commission subscription service, so that you can read the filings of the major investor owned utilities and see for yourself that statewide policies are being set solely for the purpose of preserving corporate profits and shareholder dividends. It wouldn't hurt to examine the utility attorney statements contained in the above links, either.

Personally, I don't care if any person is installing solar panels just to save money, but here's food for all Reader reader thoughts: if anyone is OPPOSED to saving money, them let them pay our utility bills. You can't pay MY SDG&E utility bill, as I am now off the grid completely, and I am pretty sure the utility and its holding company will refuse anyone's donation to any court costs I still owe from my last courtroom tango with Sempra Energy/SDG&E.

It just so happens that people who save money by installing off-grid solar generation at home or at a small business are also doing their part to decrease the need for SDG&E to build more peaker plants, something the utility might have claimed was the reason for the Sunrise Powerlink project, but now it's the reason for PSW/PSH rate hikes. How's that for food for thought?


Founder July 26, 2010 @ 9:09 a.m.

Regarding #10

You are so RIGHT ON for living off the grid, sorry for what SDG&E did!

RE: the BIG RIP being "given" to San Diego's millions of Residential customers, so SDG&E's stock holders will make many millions:

With no factual coverage except lots of SDG&E spun hype, (that's all warm, feel good, fuzzy stuff), from the local papers focused on how wonderful meter monitoring will be, your Blog is "The" place to learn about this issue.

Perhaps the Wall Street Journal will pick up on this while they are in town checking out the Floatopia Party scene; it would be a great eye opener for the rest of our Country and especially for all those that are considering doing Business in San Diego... I'd also suggest that you contact the WSJ, the NRDC, the Sierra Club and the Huffington Post (if you have not done so already), because you have enough dirt to make it hard for SDG&E to sweep it all under the carpet and who knows, it might be easy for "them" to demand a new broom!

If this goes through, expect "$mart" water meters next, in streets near you and another big rate hike from them!


a2zresource July 27, 2010 @ 12:27 p.m.

RE #11:

From what I've been reading in power utility industry journals over the last decade, the last thing power industry players want the public to find out is how those players plan on making money through Distributed Generation (DG in industry-speak).

Solar DG is extremely kryptonite-like to investor owned power utilities, mainly because there's no money to be made from free fusion energy from the Sun.

The "proper" industry standard model for solar DG implementation (as explained in the industry journals) is to take up space at the customer's place of business or residence, have the customer pay for the installation that ultimately is the property of the investor owned utility (there are FERC reasons for this transfer of ownership), then have the customer pay for (1) the electricity generated by the installed photovoltaic solar panel array and used by the customer, (2) the utility maintenance contract for said array, and (3 - optional) the permit fees required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for customer's installation to be named as a Qualifying Facility (QF in industry-speak).

Without FERQ QF certification, there is no reason under at least California law to reimburse a DG customer for the amount of excess electricity generated by that customer, then taken by the utility, and finally sold to somebody else at a tidy profit for the utility, with nothing passed back up the chain to the power-generating customer who's generally paying for the utility's power for sale in the first place.


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