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Our region’s future economic success depends on a reliable energy supply at an equitable price that allows businesses to thrive and our economy to grow.
Some of our region’s customers, including our business customers, are paying more than their fair share for energy. That’s a result of policy decisions that increase cross subsidies and place mandates on the type of energy SDG&E delivers.
In the last year, our business customers have seen rate increases ranging from 21 to 24 percent. That’s not fair. It’s time to come up with meaningful long-term solutions.
Is the solution more mandates? Or is the solution to tell regulators the story of the local restaurant owner who has seen their bill increase more than $1,000 in two years?
This problem isn’t limited to San Diego County – it’s statewide. California has set greater use of renewable power as a policy goal, and SDG&E is on schedule to meet the state’s mandate to obtain 33 percent of customer demand with environmentally friendly sources like wind, solar and other renewable resources. The cost of renewable energy, along with delayed regulatory decision-making and cost shifts, has resulted in a steady increase in energy costs for businesses in San Diego and across the state.
SDG&E is working closely with regulatory agencies to establish an equitable rate system, but the ultimate decision on setting energy rates lies with state policymakers and the California Public Utilities Commission. Our goal now is to make sure officials understand how their decisions impact our customers.
From there, we’ll be proposing a series of reforms to improve our state’s energy rate structure so it’s both fair and sustainable. These reforms include offering new rate options that would give business customers greater bill stability for those who have less flexibility to change their energy use, as well as an option that provides more control for customers who can be flexible about their energy usage.
In the meantime, we’re trying to bridge the gap by offering a wide range of programs to help businesses manage their energy use and lower their bills. Rebates and incentives are available for replacing lighting and aging equipment with new energy-efficient models. In 2014 alone, customers took advantage of more than $50 million in incentives and rebates.
We also have rate options that allow businesses to be charged based on when they use energy, helping them to save money by shifting certain operations to off-peak hours. We offer level-pay plans that help businesses balance their annual energy costs into a predictable monthly bill.
These programs have helped San Diego businesses reduce their energy use by more than 100 million kilowatt-hours, or enough to power 54,000 homes, over the last year, and have led to significant cost savings.
But only a portion of the businesses eligible for these programs are taking advantage of them. That’s something we’re working to improve by raising awareness of the programs.
We take our responsibility as the region’s energy provider seriously. In recent years, SDG&E has upgraded our system with a series of new transmission lines and substations that have led to unprecedented levels of energy reliability, which directly benefits the local economy.
There are a lot of factors that affect the cost of doing business in California. The economic resurgence in our state won’t happen in the halls of Sacramento, but inside the buildings of our small- to mid-size business owners. They have always been, and will always be, what drives success in our region, our state and our nation. Sacramento should be constantly looking for opportunities to create policy that ensures their success.
Caroline Winn is vice president of customer services for San Diego Gas & Electric. Winn’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.