July 28, 2000


SDG&E Seeks $16 Million for Energy-Efficiency Assistance for Customers

To provide its customers with additional assistance this summer and next, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has requested from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) $16 million over the next two years to increase funding for energy-efficiency programs.

"Our customers need assistance today in lowering their energy costs and today's proposal will bring an additional $16 million funding to encourage energy conservation in our region," said Edwin A. Guiles, president of SDG&E. "This money can be used to help replace old, inefficient appliances, such as air conditioners and refrigerators, which will result in reduced electric bills and less strain on our state's electric-supply system."

Of the $16 million, SDG&E would allocate an additional $4.3 million exclusively for low-income energy-efficiency assistance programs over the next two years.

Under the proposal filed Friday, the low-income assistance funds will be used to expand existing programs, such as refrigerator and evaporative cooler replacements, while introducing new programs, including room air-conditioner replacements and evaporative cooler maintenance and repair. The program also includes incentives for landlords to replace refrigerators and air conditioners in rental units.

The rest of the money would go into other energy-efficiency programs to provide incentives for removal and recycling of operating second refrigerators; refrigerator and room air-conditioner replacement; replacement of inefficient pool pumps; and increased incentives for a variety of programs to benefit small businesses.

Funds for these additional incentives come from 1999 programs that did not draw as much customer participation as expected. For instance, large customers requested less than half the amount budgeted for a program designed to provide energy-efficiency incentives to them.

Details on the programs are still being developed, but they should be in place in early September. The CPUC is expected to act on SDG&E's filing in late August.

In California's newly created competitive energy marketplace, SDG&E is a delivery-service provider. For those customers who have not chosen another energy service provider, SDG&E buys electricity from the California Power Exchange (Cal-PX) and passes that costs directly onto its customers, with no mark-up. The price of power is now a function of supply and demand in the open market. Over the last several weeks, SDG&E customers have seen their electric bills rise sharply due to the significant increase in commodity costs as a result of power demand in California and surrounding states.

Friday's proposal marks the latest in a series of actions SDG&E has taken recently to help customers grapple with high electric prices.

On July 20, SDG&E and the Cal-PX proposed a new market-based power bidding solution to the CPUC that would allow SDG&E to procure power for customers with less price volatility over the next five to nine months.

On July 14, SDG&E filed a request with the CPUC to accelerate the return of $100 million in customer money from a CPUC-controlled account. The CPUC's approval of SDG&E's request would release of money acquired from power-generating benefits of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and other assets would decrease the August and September residential electric bills by $34, or $17 a month.

That proposal, combined with the deregulation-dividend checks most SDG&E customers will receive next month, will result in a total of about $500 million benefit to them in August and September -- nearly $300 for the typical residential customer-- helping to ease cash-flow problems from higher electricity prices.

The company is actively promoting a level-pay program to all customers, which enables them to even out their bill payments over the course of the year, so they can manage better against their monthly household budget. Those customers participating in the plan will see bills this summer that are comparable to last summer's bills.

SDG&E also has increased communications to both residential and business customers regarding the changes in the energy marketplace, available energy-efficiency funding and conservation tips for reducing electric bills.

Information about these programs is available by calling 1-800-411-SDGE.

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