San Diego Business Journal

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. has settled its case against Enron Corp. for overcharges during the early days of the energy crisis in 2000.

The exact figure still is being negotiated and must receive final approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission. Because Enron is in bankruptcy, the court overseeing that proceeding also will have to approve the settlement.

SDG & E;, which announced the settlement July 15, expects to receive up to $20 million from the company.

The settlement, which represents about 23 cents for each dollar sought from Enron, is part of a broader agreement involving other major California utilities, and the states of California, Oregon and Washington.

"SDG & E; was the first to file a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2000, claiming that rates were unreasonable during the energy crisis," said Lee Schavrien, the vice president of regulatory affairs for the utility. "We are very pleased with this settlement, and we will continue to advocate for more refunds on our customers' behalf."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in an earlier statement, said: "This latest victory for ratepayers will help keep the costs of electricity low for the people and businesses of California. I will continue to press for settlements of all outstanding claims against those who unfairly profited at the expense of California's ratepayers."

Michael P. Peevey, the CPUC's president, said: "No dollar amount will ever be enough to compensate California's electricity consumers for the harm Enron caused. But this settlement, like the ones before it, shows the dedication and hard work of the PUC staff, the attorney general and other California parties all working on behalf of consumers to obtain justice for the gaming and manipulation perpetuated by Enron."

The CPUC, he said, will consider the settlement at an upcoming commission meeting.

In a separate move, SDG & E; has asked the CPUC to approve a refund of about $50 million to customers from settlements negotiated this year with Mirant, an independent energy provider, and El Paso Natural Gas.

Refunds have also come from settlements from Duke Energy, Williams Energy and Dynergy.

Electricity prices more than tripled during the energy crisis of 2000-01, and San Diegans were the first to feel the brunt of increased electricity costs, according to SDG & E.;

Several investigations at the state and federal levels have led to a series of refunds to California customers.

SDG & E; customers have received credits totaling $119 million from energy-crisis refunds.

-- Pat Broderick