SDG&E GRC Wildfire Rate Hike Finally Filed With CPUC

North County Times reports that San Diego Gas and Electric Company has finally filed its general rate case (GRC) to California's Public Utilities Commission that was first hinted at back in August. SDG&E's A1012005 GRC requests a 7.5 percent rate hike for wildfire expenses that are already subject to several SDG&E rate hikes already in the regulatory pipeline.

SDG&E's Z-Factor A090819 application, seeking nearly $29 million in wildfire insurance costs after the 2007 San Diego County wildfires, resulted in a split decision between the assigned administrative law judge and the assigned commission. Commissioner Timothy Simon granted SDG&E additional time to argue after all other parties had made their final statements and approved the application after the administrative law judge, limiting the evidence only to that provided up to the final statements, denied the application.

SDG&E is one of three investor owned power utilities filing the A0908020 Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA) application, seeking to bill customers for legal costs and other related wildfire expenses when caused by utility overhead power lines and other equipment failures. A decision on A0908020 is not expected until well after CPUC evidentiary hearings scheduled for Spring 2011.

If all of SDG&E's wildfire-related applications to CPUC are approved, then consumers may be billed multiple times for the same SDG&E wildfire expenses. According to former San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre's intervention in the wildfire-related matters, SDG&E's shareholders and not ratepaying consumers should be responsible for those costs.

CPUC is already concerned that the investor owned power utilities (SDG&E, Southern California Edison, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company referred to as the IOUs by state regulators) are submitting their GRC applications in a way that will overwhelm CPUC attorneys and not provide regulators with the time to evaluate each of those applications objectively. Without objective evaluations before CPUC approval, consumers may be improperly and excessively charged until the next IOU GRC application cycle years later.

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