By Miriam Raftery
July 25, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) – “Punish people in hotter communities for trying to survive the record heat – are you kidding me?” State Senator Brian Jones asks in a video he made after learning that the California Public Utilities Commission has refused a request from SDG&E to eliminate or suspend high use charges (HUC).
With an intent to encourage energy conservation, the Commission ordered all California utilities starting in 2017 to impose hefty HUC rates if a standard-tier residential customer uses more than 400% of their baseline allowance.
Last summer, over 120,000 SDG&E customers complained of skyrocketing bills after record heat waves, a problem that continues this summer as temperature records continue to be shattered.
Jones, who lives in Santee, notes that the temperature in Ramona recently reached 117 degrees. He adds that many of his constituents live in areas that regularly exceed 90 degrees.
Scott Crider, SDG&E’s vice president of customer services, says of ratepayers socked with the high usage charges, “We heard their concerns and took action to have the HUC removed on their behalf, but unfortunately the CPUC did not approve our request.”
For now, you can avoid the High Usage Charge by enrolling in a Time-of-Use plan, which is not subject to the High Usage Charge. You pay less for electricity if you reduce your use during peak hours of 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
SDG&E’s website indicates the company plans to pursue other bill relief options in the coming months, such as eliminating seasonal pricing changes that impose higher rates during summer months from June through October. But eliminating seasonal pricing would require review and approval of the California Utilities Commission.
Read more about high uses charges and alternatives at https://www.sdge.com/high-usage-charge.
Another option is to invest in solar energy to reduce the amount of power purchased on the grid, or even go off-grid entirely.
Some East County cities as well as the County of San Diego are currently exploring community choice energy, meaning the city or county would produce and sell electrical energy and give residents the option to buy directly from their city or county, instead of from SDG&E. Local jurisdictions are currently reviewing feasibility studies to decide whether to adopt a CCE alternative.