Commission shoots down SDG&E rate hike plan

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SAN DIEGO – A state commission threw out San Diego Gas & Electric’s plan Thursday to shift the cost of the 2007 wildfires onto ratepayers.

Who should pick up the tab for the firestorm? That’s the $1 billion question and according to the California Public Utilities Commission it won’t be SDG&E customers… at least for now.

“This is a huge victory for San Diego ratepayers,” attorney Michael Aguirre said.  “We are paying these high rates for electricity and the idea of adding on another $1 billion is just something that people couldn’t afford.”

SDG&E has paid $1.9 billion from the 2007 wildfires started by downed power lines.

After years of negotiations and heated public meetings, the CPUC threw out a last minute proposal Thursday that would have allowed SDG&E to create a special account to offset those costs.

“They like to disguise rate increases by spreading them out over periods of time,” Utility Consumers Action Network Staff Attorney David Peffer said. “We’re talking hundreds of millions, $1 billion plus of money coming out of ratepayers pockets.”

The commission dismissed the proposal because it did not have enough support, but advocates say customers still aren’t off the hook.

“There’s always room for compromise,” Aguirre said. “There is always room to try and work with SDG&E, but that would require them to make some profound changes.”

SDGE released a statement late Thursday afternoon saying:

“We believe the Commission today reached a reasonable compromise that gives SDG&E the opportunity to continue to make its case for rate recovery, while also allowing a robust reasonableness review by commissioners in the best interest of its customers.”