Consumers Agree: No Edison Rate Hikes

So Cal Edison may increase its electricity rates starting in 2012, but the CPUC wants to know what residents and business owners think about a possible fee increase.

Southern California Edison may increase its electricity rates for customers starting in 2012, but the California Public Utilities Commission wants to know what residents and business owners think about a possible fee increase.

Two public hearings take place at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday, June 20, at the Long Beach Courtyard by Marriott Downtown (500 E. First St.) regarding SCE’s application to increase electricity rates.

SCE spokesman Gil Alexander said he hopes people come to the hearing, share their opinions, ask questions and learn why the rate increase is necessary. SCE is proposing a 7.2% increase in 2012, a 1.3% increase on top of that in 2013 and a 4.35% increase on top of that in 2014. Altogether the increases total $1.3 billion additional revenue for SCE in three years.

“We recognize that this (raising rates) is an important issue, and we hope people come to the public participation meeting and get more information,” Alexander said. “We are in a recession, which means challenging times for many of our customers, and yet we are facing some infrastructure issues and need to make necessary investments or it will cost customers more later. The least expensive way is to do preventative maintenance before the grid fails and we have to do repairs.”

Alexander said rate increases are necessary to pay for needed operations, maintenance and capital costs that will keep the lights on and the voltage steady for years to come. Currently, he said it costs about $12 billion a year to provide enough electricity for Southern California.

If all of SCE’s rate increases are approved, Alexander said it would mean the average resident’s bill would increase by about $5 per month. Low income users participating in SCE’s CARE program would pay about $2.70 extra per month.

TURN, The Utility Reform Network, has taken a stance against Edison’s rate hikes. Mark Toney, TURN executive director, said it’s the wrong time to ask for residents and business owners to pay more.

“With the economy and unemployment the way it is, this rate increase will affect everyone from residents to business owners,” Toney said. “In this day and age where every dollar counts, we think people should come to the hearing and explain why they cannot afford a rate increase.”

TURN representatives are expected to attend the Monday hearing in Long Beach to speak against SCE’s proposal.

Alexander said it would be ideal if SCE didn’t need to raise rates, but that an increase is necessary to maintaining a reliable power supply. He added that rates—even with the increase—would remain below the national average of $100 per month for residential electricity; Edison’s average is $92.

While many might say a recession is a bad time to increase electric bills, Alexander said the rate increases would create jobs and boost the economy. Rate increases would pay for maintenance and infrastructure work, creating about 10,000 non-utility jobs in the state.

For details about the public hearing, visit the California Public Utilities Commission website at: cpuc.ca.gov