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Various Authors 4:09 p.m., May 27
Representatives from SDG&E appeared at a county hearing on Tuesday to defend a proposal to increase solar rates for 15,000 customers. The energy company claims solar customers are not paying for the energy infrastructure, leaving non-solar customers to foot the bill.
If the state's public utilities commission approves the proposal, residential solar customers will pay an extra $23 dollars a month. For some local school districts and water agencies that have turned to solar to save money, their monthly bills could increase by thousands of dollars.
Solar customers aren't thrilled with the proposal and neither are some county lawmakers. Supervisors Pam Slater-Price and Dianne Jacob say the solar rate hike as proposed by SDG&E ignores the benefits of renewable energy and hurts the economy.
"This proposal is killing jobs as we speak. This proposal must be rejected by state regulators. SDG&E says solar customers are subsidizing non-solar customers. The truth is that solar customers give a lot more than they are getting. Under this proposal the more solar that a customer produces the more they will pay," said Supervisor Jacob.
J.C. Thomas, government and regulatory affairs manager for SDG&E, said the company is not looking to profit, only charge a fair price for use of the transmission network and to maintain the infrastructure. If the rate hike is not accepted, then non-solar customers will pay hundreds more a year for energy.
"We have to change the rates. We have to change our services. And, we have to change our infrastructure. If we don't fix it...solar will fail," said Thomas at Tuesday's board meeting.
But owners of solar panels say the company is only out for profits, that because they export energy into the grid and only travels a few hundred feet to neighboring homes then fees associated with use of the network should not apply.
More than a dozen speakers spoke out against the proposed "network use charge." A county staffer even stated the rate hike amounts to a $100,000 a year increase in energy costs at the East Mesa Detention Facility in Otay Mesa.
After allowing the public to weigh in, supervisors decided to participate in the state energy commission's hearings on the issue, to try and find a "fair rate scheme" for both SDG&E and their customers.