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By Miriam Raftery

April 27, 2019 (San Diego) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) offers programs that can provide discounts to low income individuals on certain assistance programs, as well as to people with medical equipment under a doctor’s care.  There are also no-cost energy efficient upgrades available to qualifying individuals.

I visited the company’s site to research discount options after receiving the following letter from Tom Lemon, an East County resident, who wrote:

For the past month I tried to use as little electricity as possible. No lights on overnight, I used a flashlight when I woke up at night to go to the kitchen or bathroom. I used to leave my porch light on for security, that was off too. My current bill is $182.11. I can afford it but what are people who live on the edge to do? One late bill and they have no utilities and may end up living with friends or family or homeless. 

My son's house is on a well so when he brushes his teeth a pump starts. 


Below are links and details to three programs SDG&E offers to help qualifying households reduce their energy bills.  Of note, Lemon says he's used these but still has a bill he considers too high.  An ECM writer, however, has indicated she qualified for the CARE program and her most recent bill at her apartment was just 33 cents.


California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) -  Offers a 30% or more monthly bill discount.  Qualification is based on participation in certain public assistance programs or by income guidelines. 

Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) -  If you're not eligible for CARE, you may qualify for an  18% monthly bill discount through FERA.   FERA is only open to households with three or more people.  Qualification is based on income guidelines. 



Medical Baseline Allowance -  This program is available to people with a qualifying medical condition or who use qualifying medical equipment at home. The application must be certified by a doctor.  



No-Cost Home Energy Upgrades - Eligibility for the no-cost energy efficient home improvement program is based on income and household size or by your household participation in certain public assistance programs.  Homeowners and renters may apply.



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Public Utility digging into our pockets

SDG&E is a "public utility" supposedly watched by the Public Utilities Commission, to insure public trust occurs. It does not. As a "public company" that pays nice corporate salaries and golden halos, it also pays guaranteed common stock dividends that all the other "public companies" that we invest in, cannot do. These Public Utilities take the ratepayers money for the utilities they use and spend some of it as benevolent donations to low income, assistant programs, discounts on appliances, energy upgrades, firefighting equipment, weed abatement, etc. All with the blessing of the Public Utilities Commission. As to what SDG&E produces? Nothing! They no longer generate electricity and import natural gas. SDG&E is just a middleman that escalates cost of operations and that ends up on your monthly bill. If my money is going to be donated, I want the say in how and where it goes!

Bill payment

I'm quite sure that SDG&E will not turn off a person's utilities after just one missed payment in full. They usually send multiple notices before a final cut-off notice. They will also allow a person to make smaller payments on a scheduled plan to pay off a large bill. I agree that the rates are getting much higher though, and wonder what the summer months will bring with the new Time Of Use program. I think serious adjustments to electricity use is in order, but for some, that may not be enough, or possible. An A/C may be needed more frequently for medical reasons for example. I have already seen my bill increase quite a lot, and I am very thrifty. Biggest consumer in our homes is the refrigerator and A/C, yet it seems (in my case) that even a single LED light, computer, smart TV, and fan (plus refrigerator) is enough to drive up the bill. We are trapped as a consumer. Possible energy choice programs may not be the answer either. These businesses are in it to make a fat profit. Additionally, the California Public Utilities Commission appears to be of little help in protecting the consumer as it's job is purported to be.