Did you get your SDG&E letter in the mail yet? I did. If you haven’t received it, it’s coming. The letter is to inform SDG&E customers about a rate increase hitting your bill in a few months — likely around September. The information in the letter will advise you of a significant increase in the amount you will be paying for electricity. The letter states that if you have a bill of $250, you will likely see it go up by as much as $75. OUCH!
If you didn’t install a pool or make a major change to your home that would be an obvious indication of an energy use increase, then the question you’ll be asking yourself is, why is my rate going up if I’m using the same amount of energy?
If it’s any consolation, it isn’t anything you’ve done that made your electric light bill go up. I was invited to attend a presentation at the SDG&E Energy Innovation Center in San Diego, to learn and understand first how SDG&E works, and second, why I am going to pay more for my power. I’m sharing what I learned with you here, so you can prepare for this inevitable rate increase.
SDG&E is a private business, not a government entity as some may think. This utility company also does not make more money when customers use more energy. That’s because in 1982 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) “separated utility profits from customer usage,” thus eliminating the incentive to have customers use more electricity.
But SDG&E does make money on the long-term investments it makes on infrastructure like gas pipelines, power lines, and power plants, but that is also limited by a regulatory formula. What the utility can earn on its investments is regulated by a case called the Cost of Capital proceeding whereby a return on investment (ROI) is set. To give you an idea of what your payment covers .50 cents of each dollar you pay goes towards infrastructure like pole change outs. Some of the money is also used to comply with requirements for the company to reduce its footprint and produce less emissions. For more information on this visit the www.SDGE.com.
What all of this means is that SDG&E just doesn’t raise rates on its own. The company adjusts rates three times a year based on a revenue requirement. This is the money that is coming in and going out related to the safe operation and maintenance of their equipment.
So, why am I telling you all this? Because it’s something I didn’t know and recently learned about at the SDG&E Energy Innovation Center.
Like many folks, I was under the wrong impression that SDGE was out to get me. After all, my utility rate is in the highest tier, or Tier 4. (I didn’t even know that there were different tiers for SDG&E customers! Do you know your tier?) Take a good look at your utility bill (something I had never bothered to do!), because it is full of information about your gas and energy consumption. And if you don’t understand your bill, there is an incredible resource most of us underutilize: www.SDGE.com.
After you set up your account, go to the My Account tab. Voila! What you are looking at is the exact same bill you get in the mail! Of course, your first realization is that you can go paperless now, right? OK. After making a note of this, take the time to understand your bill using the tools on the website.
But what you are probably most concerned with is how to save money on your upcoming electric bill.
Here are five things I learned from the presentation at SDG&E that you can do right away to significantly help Reduce Your Use and save money on your SDG&E bill:
1. Save money with SDG&E’s rebate program. If your appliance is old enough to vote, then it’s time to get one that is energy efficient. Not only will it save money on your energy bill in the long run, but also can add a new modern touch to your home. Find out more at http://bit.ly/XpGnSZ
2. SDG&E is rewarding you with credits towards your next bill when you save energy between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on “Reduce your Use” days. Set up your account to start receiving alerts for the next “Reduce Your Use” day. See for http://bit.ly/1653D7S for more info.
3. Your heavily flowing faucets or showerheads are costing you more money. By saving water, you save energy and money and help the environment. Request a free Home Energy-Saving Kit from SDG&E today! bit.ly/Xhxwn4
4. There’s MUCH more to SDG&E’s My Account than paying your bill. With SDG&E’s new online energy management tool you can:
· See an overview of your energy use
· Get current bill and a forecasted bill for the month
· Review your hourly, weekly or monthly energy use
· Analyze your bill to see why it changes
· Learn about energy-saving actions specific to your home
Check out SDG&E’s My Account overview video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsxlrUB12X4
5. Electronics that are not in use, but are still plugged in, incandescent bulbs, and old appliances are among the leading causes of energy overconsumption. Help end energy abuse with the SDG&E Energy Diet. Here’s how you can start your diet http://bit.ly/11696Ke
It is overwhelming to try to implement all of the suggestions listed here at the same time. In fact, I am starting with only one, and what I think is the easiest project that I hope will result in more bang for my buck: I am changing out all of my regular light bulbs for energy-efficient lighting. If your home has recessed lighting like ours does, then each time you hit the light switch probably 4 to 6 lights come on at once.
I counted how many canister lights are in our home, and we have 36! A single switch lights up 5 of these lights. No wonder my power meter is spinning out of control!
As a little experiment, I am going to reveal my current light bill, which I just got in my email Inbox (so convenient!). This month we owe $159.06. Note we don’t have AC or a pool and we live by the coast. (Our bill is double this amount in wintertime when we crank up the central heating system.)
In a future post I will let you know how the light bulb change out impacted our utility bill. At that time, I will also share more tips and ideas to help you save energy and money.
In the meantime, short of living by candlelight, what do you do to keep your SDGE bill from spinning out of control?