September 28, 2001

SDG&E Outlines Help For Customers Impacted by State Rate Increase

In the wake of a state electricity rate increase, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) joined with community partners to raise awareness of bill assistance and energy-efficiency programs available to all its customers.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a rate increase to subsidize electricity purchases by the California Department of Water Resources. The state agency has been buying power for SDG&E customers since Feb. 7, 2001, and for customers of Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison since the beginning of the year.

The five-tiered residential rate plan adopted by the CPUC has a greater impact on those residential customers who consume more energy than state-mandated baseline amounts. The baseline is designed to cover the minimum amount of electricity required for basic needs. The increase exempts approximately 40 percent of SDG&E customers, including low-income residents receiving state CARE and medical baseline rate discounts, as well as those using less than 130 percent of their baseline usage amount. Direct-access customers are not impacted by this decision.

"Our customers need help," said Pamela J. Fair, vice president of customer services for SDG&E. "Many can benefit from low-income-assistance and energy-efficiency initiatives to reduce their energy costs. We and our community partners are committed to ensuring that SDG&E customers know what is available to help them better control their energy usage and reduce their costs."

Toward this end, SDG&E has:

Requested more funds from the CPUC to continue financing energy-efficiency programs and rebates.

Worked closely with a variety of outreach agencies to bring CARE information to hard-to-reach audiences.

Stepped up its advertising of CARE and other programs through a wide variety of ethnic publications and other outreach efforts.

Several community organizations have joined with SDG&E to help raise awareness among low-income and non-English-speaking customers about their options.

"The Union of Pan Pacific islander communities in San Diego about energy-assistance programs available to SDG&E customers," said Chi Tran, UPAC director of economic development programs. "UPAC is working with SDG&E to translate energy information messages into many languages and to get the word out to the community through special events."

"Episcopal Community Services (ECS) is now working with SDG&E to ensure that eligible customers receive the help they need," said Bob Morris, vice president of development for ECS. "We are now working on a unique campaign to go door-to-door to inform customers about the CARE program and to help enroll those who qualify for the discount."

SDG&E will include information about the new tiered-rate system in its bills and will add a new online "calculator" to its Web site next week to assist customers who want to verify charges.

Commercial and industrial customers who purchase their electricity through SDG&E will see an increase in their electric energy costs under today's CPUC decision. The increase varies according to customer class, time or use and rate. Commercial and industrial direct-access customers are exempted from the increase.

Customer options include home and business energy audits; programs for appliance replacement and home insulation; assistance for new residential construction; energy-efficiency retrofits for business; and level-pay plans and low-income assistance.

"There are many programs available to help customers, and we urge them to give us a call," said Fair.

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