SAN DIEGO — Many San Diego residents have experienced a spike in their energy costs in recent months, with eye-popping San Diego Gas & Electric bills adding to the financial strain of other rising prices.
San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond is pressuring Gov. Gavin Newsom to use some of the state’s massive budget surplus to help with those costs. Desmond, a Republican who represents much of North County, sent a letter to the governor this week urging him to provide “temporary relief to ratepayers” during the spike in prices.
Desmond proposes using some of the surplus — an estimated $45.7 billion in 2022 — to help pay for costly initiatives that SDG&E and other utilities are currently undertaking. These include state-mandated renewable energy projects, aimed at meeting California’s ambitious climate goals, and infrastructure improvements that protect against wildfires.
Under current circumstances, the supervisor says, utilities are passing the exorbitant cost of those projects on to consumers.
“On the backs of local ratepayers, SDG&E has spent $3 billion in the last 10 years to strengthen community resiliency, harden electric grids, and underground powerlines. Investment in infrastructure to reduce the risk of wildfires are on-going,” Desmond wrote in the letter, which he shared publicly.
“These costs are funded by local ratepayers, included in monthly energy bills. The State of California should relieve ratepayers by offsetting these projects with state budget-surplus dollars. The State should also look to offset costs of utility-constructed clean power projects.”
SDG&E has cited a variety of reasons for the rising energy bills, including the cost of those infrastructure projects. First and foremost, however, they point to a global spike in the price of natural gas, prompted by a shortage across the world. The cost of natural gas increased about 25% from January 2021 to January 2022.
The utility also promotes its programs that can help you lower your SDG&E bill, including discounts for lower-income residents and those receiving government assistance. Residents struggling with their bills could benefit from the California Arrearage Payment Program, too. Recently passed by Newsom and the state legislature, the program automatically doles out credits to some customers for past-due bills.
For his part, the governor has floated a variety of proposals that would use the state’s surplus to help residents struggling with high inflation and an unsteady recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Newsom’s ideas include a “gas tax holiday” that would delay an increase in that fee for California drivers, backfilling the missing revenue with surplus dollars.
“Governor Newsom has put money directly in the pockets of Californians and provided relief for rent and utilities throughout the pandemic,” a spokesman in the governor’s office told FOX 5 by email. “California is leading the country in modernizing the electricity grid to address climate change and ensure all people receive safe, affordable, and reliable electric service to power their homes and cars.”
The California Public Utilities Commission will meet next Monday to “further evaluate affordability proposals to control costs and mitigate both electric and natural gas rates,” according to an agency agenda.