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Encinitas Opposes SDG&E Rate Proposal

The city joins a growing list of opponents.

The Encinitas City Council unanimously voted Wednesday night to oppose San Diego Gas and Electric’s (SDG&E) proposed rate restructure, which would increase costs for customers who use solar energy — and many argue would also undermine the budding solar industry.

SDG&E wants to add a monthly ‘network use charge’ for tapping into its distribution grid. Customers who do not use solar power would not see much of a change on their monthly bill, but customers who do use it would pay about $22 more per month, according to estimates by SDG&E. Schools and water districts that use solar power could pay thousands of dollars more per month, though SDG&E representatives said those estimates are still being calculated. 

SDG&E outreach manager Ian Stewart said if the billing scheme is not overhauled, traditional customers will increasingly continue to subsidize the costs of services for people who do use solar power.

“We need to be sure that all customers pay their fair share for using the grid,” Stewart said. Right now that so-called subsidy is about $25 a year for the average customer, but that could increase to hundreds of dollars if nothing is changed, Stewart said.  

In October SDG&E filed a rate case with the California Public Utilities Commission, which is done every three years. Though a decision on that case is not expected until August, the proposed ‘network use charge’ quickly raised the eyebrows of many critics, including David Gersz, a spokesperson for the San Diego Solar Coalition and a salesman for . He said SDG&E’s proposed rate restructure would actually charge a fee to customers with solar power based on how much power they use.

“The more power the solar customers offsets, the more SDG&E plans to increase their fees,” he explained. For example, under the proposed rate restructure, a homeowner with solar power paying $371 annually could expect to see that bill grow by 94 percent to $718, Gersz said, who citied his resource as a study by the California Center for Sustainable Energy, an non-biased third party.

Gersz also said that as solar power increases, there is less of a need for new power lines, which means less profit for SDG&E. “Their solution is to introduce fees that are essentially going to kill our industry,” he said. The solar industry is one of the fastest growing in the nation, and in California it provides more than 30,000 jobs, Gersz added, calling it “a bright spot in our dim economy.” 

About a dozen Encinitas residents and people who work in the local solar industry addressed City Council, each of them urging the city to formally oppose what SDG&E has laid out. Council ultimately agreed, unanimously voting for a resolution to oppose SDG&E’s proposed rate restructure.

Encinitas joins a lengthy list of opponents, including the cities of Solana Beach and Lemon Grove, as well as several water districts, the Sierra Club, and Walmart.

“There’s only one set of facts, but there’s a lot of ways to interpret them, and I just disagree with [SDG&E]’s interpretation of these particular facts, especially at this particular time,” said Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks, who uses solar power at his home. 

Encinitas City Councilwoman Teresa Barth said she believes this push for the emerging solar industry is a sign of more change to come.

“The old model, like utility monopoly, is not going to work in the twenty-first century,” she said. “This is the beginning of the change, and it’s right where we need to be.” 

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Chris Carrico January 12, 2012 at 03:52 PM
I think if SDGE wants to add a charge for being on the grid, then there should be a way to have solar without the requirement to be on the grid. People should be able to use their solar independantly.
Grace van Thillo January 16, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Now more than ever, we need policies to shift us toward clean, safe energy and a sustainable planet; rather than the opposite as proposed by SDG&E’s “rate change” that would impose a significant monthly utility fee increase on homeowners, schools, businesses and others with rooftop solar. In these dire economic times as communities struggle to recover, it’s devastating to consider that to increase profits, control renewable energy sources and (I wonder to help pay for huge seismic testing costs and post-Fukushima, NRC-recommended mitigation at San Onofre Nuclear plant?) that SDG&E and its investor-owned utility, would blatantly negatively impact our local clean energy industry and jobs. Increased costs on public entities, like school and water districts, could result in further cuts to essential services. Homeowners, who purchased solar systems, would be penalized for trying to save energy costs and use a sustainable energy source. Gratefully many stakeholders, and most recently the City Council of Encinitas, oppose this SDG&E rate-restructuring. Hopefully, SDG&E executives will soon alter this proposal!
CaptD January 16, 2012 at 08:45 PM
SDG&E are looking out for shareholders instead of rate payers! This is yet another scam to increase profits while reducing services! + Here is another way they rip US off: http://is.gd/eQog1d
CaptD January 16, 2012 at 08:46 PM
I believe that once California consumers and especially California property owners realize that they are NOT covered for any type of fallout, leakage or contamination caused by radioactivity, they will begin to reexamine their "trust" in nuclear because of their financial liability! Question: How many in Southern California (for example) could afford to just walk away from their homes if one of the reactors in California had a meltdown for any reason; without even considering the health implications later? The answer of course is NOT MANY! We have only to see what has happened in Japan to get a good idea; in short America cannot afford a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster any better than Japan. Remember most of the "rest" of America is downwind from the West Coast! Japan has been "lucky" in that regard ,since most of its radioactivity has move toward eastward North America and the rest of the planet; yet most of Northern Japan is now contaminated!+ I don't have all the answers to your questions but here are some good links: Wind and solar power are leaving nuclear in the dust: http://is.gd/CfpiUJ and Solar Power Could Produce >50% of Global Electricity: http://is.gd/PU3k2y and Estimating US Gov't, Subsidies http://is.gd/hwnsic and SOLAR Power Year in Review 2011: http://is.gd/8dlYIx
Gary Headrick January 16, 2012 at 11:31 PM
This is the opposite direction we need to go in. The utility companies need to pay us solar investors fair market value for energy we create so they don't have to. They also need to allow us to disconnect from the grid in case of emergency so we can access power during the day for our communication devices, refrigeration, etc. Just see what happens if they decide to charge us extra for use of the grid.
CaptD January 17, 2012 at 12:17 AM
I agree 100%. Once rate payers realize that they are being ripped, they will get the message! Not pay solar energy providers the same amount that SDG&E charges for the same Energy at that time, is a RIP that benefits the shareholders of SDG&E only!!
CaptD January 17, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Agreed, I've got my fingers crossed and encourage everyone to talk to their friends to spread the word ASAP.
CaptD January 17, 2012 at 12:50 AM
As it is now, rate payers must pay a separate fee for the grid and another fee for their Energy; that is why Solar owners should be reimbursed for all the Energy they "pump" into the Grid, by getting paid the same rate that SDG&E charges for that energy, instead of a just token percentage amount. Remember, since most solar energy is generated during the daytime, it is this peak time rate that is the highest charged by SDG&E to all it's customers, so if they were forced to pay solar owners for their energy at this rate, then the payback for installing new solar panels would be much shorter for all homeowners which would lead to more folks installing solar panels sooner! SDG&E opposes this because they want to maintain their market share and continue to pay shareholder profits!
Donna Gilmore January 17, 2012 at 05:27 AM
SDGE should be encouraging solar. Instead they want to make their profits on the taxpayer and ratepayer subsidized San Onofre nuclear plant. Sign the petition for the California Nuclear Initiative that will effectively shut down both of California's unsafe nuclear plants. Go to CaliforniaNuclearInitiative.com. San Onofre has the worst safety record of all nuclear plants in the entire USA. For information on the serious San Onofre safety issues, go to SanOnofreSafety.org.

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