Tough Day for SCE Customers, But No Problem for DWP Ratepayers

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City News Service

On a day when a state panel authorized the biggest electricity rate hike in state history for SCE and PG&E, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power told its customers not to worry.

”We don’t anticipate there will be (electricity) shortages and we don’t anticipate any rate increases,” DWP General Manager S. David Freeman said.

”What we do anticipate is that we will be engaged in a massive conservation effort in order to save money and to help our neighbors.”

Underscoring the need for conservation that the rate hike is designed to engender, the California Independent System Operator issued a Stage 2 electrical emergency at 1:20 p.m., after operating reserves either dropped below 5 percent or were expected to within two hours.

The alert in effect until 10 p.m. was triggered by a loss of about 1,100 megawatts of imported power, 10,500 megawatts lost to generators off-line for maintenance, and the decision of some alternative energy providers to remain off-line, pending payment for electricity delivered previously.

Under the plan the California Public Utilities Commission approved on a 5-0 vote, rates for some Southern California Edison customers will rise by up to 46 percent. Others will see no increases, either because of their income levels or because they use less power than last year. The higher rates will

show up on May bills.

The rate increase, designed to keep the state’s two giant investor-owned utilities afloat and to encourage conservation, comes atop a 9-15 percent hike $ % the PUC approved in January, and a 10 percent increase scheduled to take effect next year. Together, SCE and Pacific Gas & Electric serve 25 million

customers, who will pay an estimated $4.8 billion a year more for their power. $ %

DWP customers, and those of some other municipally owned utilities, are not at the mercy of the state’s power grid, which supplies electricity to about 75 $ % percent of Californians. But San Diego Gas & Electric customers also are not affected by today’s PUC order.

When PG&E and SCE were selling off their power plants four years ago, DWP decided to hold on to its generators.

Freeman said rates paid by DWP customers ”are 20 percent lower than theirs without the increase.”

Harvey Rosenfield, president of the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, called the rate hikes a ripoff.

So did other consumer organizations that believe California is being held hostage by some out-of-state generators, who in turn say they have not been paid in some cases for services rendered.

Today’s PUC meeting in San Francisco was delayed for about an hour until security personnel were able to remove a small group of protesters who chanted, among other things, ”Rate hike, no way! Make the energy companies pay!”

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