The battle over local electricity rates is heating up as local government officials declare a state of emergency and the California Public Utilities Commission prepares to discuss the effects deregulation has had on San Diego Gas & Electric Co. customers.
The CPUC is scheduled to meet Aug. 3 to discuss San Diego’s high utility rates. Possible moves could include hearings of electricity providers, looking into changing the structure of the market, and granting SDG & E; broader authority to “hedge,” or enter into long-term contracts for electricity purchases, thereby locking in rates, he said.
Both the city and county weren’t willing to wait. On July 25, they both moved to declare a state of emergency in the area.
The City Council approved 12 proposals to help alleviate skyrocketing electricity rates. These include requesting the state attorney general to investigate claims of collusion or price fixing by the industry, and calling on the CPUC to hold immediate hearings.
Other proposals include price caps, calling on the California Energy Commission to fast-track approvals for generation of new power plants, and calling on Gov. Gray Davis to declare a state of emergency.
The county Board of Supervisors also made proposals, as well. One was to convene a conference with energy providers and distributors, state energy officials, elected officials and others to create a workable plan to reduce electric rates.
Supervisors also called upon the CPUC to consider reinstating a rate freeze on San Diego that had been lifted in July 1999. Members of the CPUC had previously gone on record opposing such a rate freeze.
Other politicians have also been weighing in on San Diego’s energy crisis. State Sen. Steve Peace warned that the CPUC was not taking its role seriously in refusing to consider a freeze on local electric rates.
“These electricity price increases were created by a wholesale electricity market that is clearly out of control. Spreading the results of these cost increases, and those that may ensue in the coming months, will not mitigate the significant economic and public health and safety consequences of placing these costs on the citizens of San Diego,” he said.
Peace proposed putting an immediate cap on the pass-through of wholesale electricity