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SDG&E faces off with consumer advocates on rate affordability during two day public workshop

Utility execs are taking part in a multi-day virtual workshop before the CPUC.

SAN DIEGO — A two-day brainstorming workshop began Monday at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) with the goal of reducing utility rates for customers in California, including San Diego.

San Diego Gas & Electric took park in the virtual event, as well as representatives from other investor-owned utilities in the state, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.

Day one of the CPUC’s so-called Affordability En Banc workshop included a proposal from The Utility Reform Network (TURN) consumer advocacy group to require all homes have electric water heaters, stoves, and furnaces whenever they are sold.

“The proposal is to require the hot water, cooking, and heating be converted to electricity for all single-family homes as a condition of closing escrow,” said TURN Executive Director Mark Toney.

When it comes to electricity rates, energy consultant Catherine Yap suggested keeping utility companies out of the business of “behind the meter” electricity projects, which are billed to customers; like building electric vehicle charging stations or providing rebates on home appliances.

“The electricity increases are just blasting off like a rocket,” said Yap.  “You don’t need a utility involvement in selling heaters for customers, or selling electric cars versus gas fired cars. Those are competitive industries that drive that, and the utilities should stay the hell out of it.”

SDG&E Vice President Scott Crider – who CBS 8 interviewed recently – pushed for new legislation to make state taxpayers pay for some of the fees you see on your monthly bill.

“We're calling on the state legislature to immediately pass legislation to remove the costs of state mandated Public Purpose Programs from electric rates, and instead finance those important programs through the state's general fund,” Crider told the panel.  “The average family out here in San Diego, we could actually save about $90 a year in bill savings.”

The SDG&E executive also called for rate reform, where customers would pay a flat rate for electricity.

“California should move to a cost based fixed charge rate model that could be designed to address equity concerns, could help to stabilize bills, and enable the move toward electrification,” said Crider.

Regarding built-in profits on capital projects, a vice president at PG&E said the utility would be opposed efforts to reduce the return on equity.

“California utilities do have higher risks, as compared to those in other states, so the notion of the national average being an appropriate proxy for California isn't borne out by the different risks that we face,” said Robert Kenney, the PG&E executive.

Day two of the rate affordability workshop goes from 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., with public comment beginning at 2:30 p.m.  The topics will focus on natural gas rates, and a roundtable discussing on reducing utility rates, in general.

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