San Diego Gas & Electric asked the California Public Utilities Commission for approval to recover in rates the remaining costs — about $379 million — to settle the 2,500 lawsuits related to the 2007 wildfires.
According to SDG&E, it initially faced $4 billion in claims arising from the fires, but the company made a decision to settle as many cases as possible to reduce the overall customer cost impact. Settlement costs amounted to $2.4 billion, the majority of which was covered by SDG&E’s liability insurance and recoveries from third parties. SDG&E proposes its shareholders pay 10 percent or $42 million.
If approved, the utility proposes to spread out the remaining $379 million over six years, which would result in a monthly bill impact of less than $1.70 for a typical residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, the utility said.
The utility said that a final CPUC decision is expected in the first quarter of 2017. Customers would not see any bill impact before then.
“We have gone to great lengths to minimize the impact to our customers by successfully settling these lawsuits rather than taking them to trial, which would have been significantly more costly,” said Lee Schavrien, chief administrative officer for SDG&E. “We are in the final stages of this proceeding, and after eight years, we believe that, as a company, a community and a region, we are much better prepared for a future fire emergency.”
SDG&E said since 2007, it has taken significant steps to enhance operational and system safety and improve overall situational awareness to reduce the potential for utility facilities to be an ignition source. It has installed more than 170 weather stations throughout its service territory. Every circuit that serves the high-risk “fire threat zone” in the backcountry has at least one weather station that provides wind speed, direction, temperature and humidity every 10 minutes — critical information needed to evaluate the possible impact of weather on system operations. All of this data is available to the National Weather Service, fire agencies and the general public, SDG&E said.