Monday’s Mtg: Why Do San Diegans Pay Such High Utility Rates?

This week we have a guest speaker, thanks to Bill!  Former San Diego City Attorney and current talk radio host Mike Aguirre will be joining us. Mike has been battling SDG&E and the other Big Energy powers that be in our region for years. He will give a little opening presentation on why we pay pretty much the nation’s highest electric utility rates and update us on the fight to keep consumers from paying the $3.3 billion costs of closing the San Onofre nuclear plant.

During discussion, there will be a fair amount to debate beyond rate rips-off. Having reliable access to energy that is both affordable and sustainable is vital to our region’s future. But, it’s not a simple matter. As with all natural resources, electric power generation, transport, and pricing come from a complex dance of market forces and government regulation. The public is very cynical about all of the major utility players after the deregulation fiasco of the 1990s and recent revelations about the coziness between Big Energy and state regulators. Still, if change to our energy system is to come, their acquiescence is required.

I’m looking forward to hear what Mike has to say. Below are some questions I have for him and the group, and some links to recent developments in our electricity rate-paying drama.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –

  1. Where does San Diego get its electric power and gas from?
  2. Who determines how much we pay for it: SDG&E? Local government? State government? How much public accountability is there, and who speaks for consumers?
  3. How do the rates we pay compare to other California and U.S. cities? Who in San Diego pays the most and least under the current rate structure?
  4. Why do San Diegans pay so much more? Is it just unavoidable market forces? Is it their absence (SDG&E’s monopoly)? Is it deregulation and/or  industry capture of regulators and politicians? What about high taxes or too much regulation, like environmental mandates?
  5. Are there ways to bring rates down in the future and/or distribute the burden more fairly or efficiently? Should rates go down, given the climate impact?
  6. Special issues:
    1. San Onofre: What’s up with customers paying $3.3B closure costs?
    2. Climate: What is San Diego’s Climate Action Plan and what impact will it have on future utility rates?

SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –

Next Week: Is there a universal human nature?

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3 responses

  1. I will probably not be able to attend, but I hope Mike will be able to answer my question:
    Why does every home in sunny San Diego not have it own solar panels and generate its own electricity, if not indeed some to sell back to the utility?

    1. I read an article today that said that up to 75% of rooftops in the US cannot accommodate current solar technology. One idea we’ll discuss is an attempt to fix that problem. “Community choice” would allow municipalities to invest in solar and allow households to rent, basically, a share of the installation for their power needs. SDG&E, PG&E, et. al., naturally, oppose it.

  2. Yes, there are indeed problems. However, nothing should prevent new houses being equipped with solar.
    Also tall buildings may have lower proportion of surface per inhabitant, thereby making solar less effective. Older units may require retrofitting to accomodate solar units.
    However, long term benefits are so great that the idea that we cannot do this is, simply, ludicrous

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