SDG&E Rate Reform Rollout
Last updated 8/7/2019 at 1:35pm
A new rate reform structure that is now being rolled out for SDG&E residential customers will be going into full effect by 2021, about 18 months from now. The rollout is being slowly phased in by zip code (small business customers are already part of the system), but Borrego 92004, so far, has not made it to their computerized zip-coded to-do list.
Deborah Newell, SDG&E's Senior Energy Solutions Advisor out of San Diego, came to Borrego and presented the forthcoming Plan options at a meeting in the library community room July 16.
She stated that Borregans will, at some point in the future, start receiving initial notices in their P.O boxes; the new structure is based on an allotted baseline usage and energy time of use (TOU).
Along with the official and detailed notifications to follow, information is also being made available online (sdge.com) for SDG&E customers to see and evaluate their current and seasonal TOU energy consumption, as well as evaluate the different programs offered for low-income and medically qualified customers. Customers can try the two basic options risk free for up to one year, and they can switch back to the Standard Plan or choose another available plan for flexibility in choice.
With a nation-leading 45% of energy generated from renewable sources, SDG&E seeks to give customers "more choice and control for managing your energy use." Everyone is currently on the Standard Plan (see graphic), but if no action is taken on the new choices, "A vast majority of customers will be transitioned to the TOU-DR1 pricing plan" by 2021 according to the SDG&E rollout literature.
But it turns out the different SDG&E Plans may or may not be suitable for a vast majority of Borregans. This is due mainly to excessive summer heat (for at least three months) and associated sky-high air conditioning bills, critical to comfort, health, and bank account balance.
While there are hours in the day when energy costs are lower because Solar power is being generated efficiently, as Newell noted in her presentation, the most expensive hours of electricity usage are when the sun is not providing enough energy for household needs – between 4 – 9 p.m., seven days a week, regardless of Plan choice.
The Solar microgrid located northeast of Borrego contributes energy to the entire system, with no specific energy designations for Borrego Springs, except during emergencies.
We now focus on Standard, TOU-1, and price-reducing options. Because 90024 is not currently included in the mix, think next year, or 2021.
Standard: Customers are currently "tiered" according to their non-TOU electricity usage. Tier-1 is applicable when usage is 0-130% of the customer-specific assigned baseline. It costs 29 cents per kWh (.29/kWh). Tier-2 costs .10/kWh more than Tier-1 (between 121-399% of baseline), and if energy usage reaches or exceed 400% of baseline, the "high use charge" kicks in at .55/kWh, a near-doubling of the Tier-1 charge. As mentioned above, there are programs available to reduce charges for low-income families and for medical necessity and are listed later in this article.
Most Borrego customers of SDG&E will, when the pricing structure is in full effect, be enrolled in TOU-1. Off-peak TOU is the cheapest – .23/kWh for Tier-1 usage. The most expensive rate occurs during on-peak times (4 – 9 p.m. seven days a week) at .57/kWh. "Super off-peak" pricing occurs Monday thru Friday from 12 – 6 a.m., between 12 – 2 p.m. on weekends and holidays, and from 10 – 2 p.m. during all of March and April.
For Borregans, the "conservation" options are limited for reducing the virtual doubling of the rate charged from 4 – 9 p.m. during both off-peak and on-peak TOU.
Getting a $500 – $1,000 electricity bill every summer month? Merely set your thermostat at 85 – 90º In real life elsewhere, where folks live under non-desert conditions, they don't have to do that.
One option available to those who do not want to see wild fluctuations in their electric bills is to sign up for the Level Pay Plan. It keeps the monthly payment the same for three months at a stretch, with quarterly instead of monthly adjustments, is "tuned up" every three months, and is based on an individual's historical usage.
Newell reminded attendees to ignore the "neighborhood comparison" part of your bill. It includes snowbirds, who are away for up to nine months per year, so the stats are therefore basically useless here in Borrego.
There are some good energy tips and links included on the My Account customer billing webpage, including how to set usage alerts, electricity monitoring, and major appliance use and replacement. For instance, take the Home Energy Audit and see if there are energy savings and lower costs to be had.
SDG&E assistance programs include CARE (sdge.com/care), Energy Savings Assistance (sdge.com/fera), and Medical Baseline Allowance (sdge.com/medicalbaseline). Qualification for these programs are included, based on income and/or medical necessity.
One potential solution to the high energy cost issue is not on SDG&E's agenda: Borrego residents choosing to switch to Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) for their energy needs.
If our needs don't match with what SDG&E can provide, at the lowest cost, we may have to go elsewhere, even if the savings are minimal, percentage-wise; a 10 – 20% savings on a $1,000 monthly electricity bill is nothing to sneeze at. Borrego has the legal infrastructure required, through the BWD, to participate in CCA, just like many unincorporated communities and even cities have done and will do to bring down energy bills.
We'll be reporting on that option in future issues.