California is reconsidering landmark consumer protections and energy conservation measures that were written into residential utility bills during the state’s 2000-2001 energy crisis.
State lawmakers and utility regulators are preparing to restructure utility bills for more than 23 million residents.
In San Diego, proposed changes are likely to spread the pain of pending rate increases to more customers and provide relief for big users of home electricity. They also may usher in an unpredictable era of time-based pricing, in which bills hinge on electricity use during a few hours of the day.
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San Diego Gas & Electric views current rates for high-end users as unsustainable and unfair, warning those customers of pending rate hikes last month in a tailored mailing.
Current rates reward conservation by stepping up the price per kilowatt hour for those who use the most in any given month. The arrangement accentuates the savings from green home investments such as energy-efficient windows and light bulbs to rooftop solar arrays.
And all customers are afforded a modest monthly allowance of electricity at below-cost prices.
The price for that allowance has been frozen or capped since the state’s energy crisis, in which market manipulation triggered rolling blackouts and wild wholesale price fluctuations.
Over time, the discount has thrust cost increases for bundled electrical service disproportionately upon large users of home electricity.
The imbalance is set to tip further in September for utility customers in San Diego and southern Orange County, when San Diego Gas & Electric begins the delayed collection of a roughly $500 million revenue increase for the 2012-2015 period.
The trend, regulators and electricity retailers warn, could ultimately threaten the ability to recover revenues to maintain infrastructure and fulfill energy-policy mandates.
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