As summer approaches, Southern California Edison (SCE) wants to share information about upcoming changes to customers’ electricity bills this season.
The key factor impacting rates this summer is an increase in the cost to buy electricity needed to serve customers.
Utilities are required to forecast what they will spend buying energy and then set rates accordingly. If they spend less than they forecast, the money is used to offset other increased costs. If SCE has to spend more, then it needs to recover the difference.
This year, costs were higher than SCE forecast, so the utility needs to collect the additional money to cover the costs of the electricity sources.
For residential customers, another rate change impacting their summer bills will be rate reform. The California Public Utilities Commission is taking a look at its rate structure for residential customers and plans to create a new one that is more equitable. The commission voted on June 12 for modest changes to the rate structure. Those changes will take effect over the summer. The average bill increase for residential customers is 8 percent.
“We want to be sure customers know about the changes and about online budget tools that give them more control over their energy use,” said Russ Worden, a director in SCE’s Regulatory Operations unit.
Online budget tools also recommend tips for managing energy usage in their homes.
SCE offers programs to help customers who may be having trouble paying their electric bills. The CARE (the California Alternate Rates for Energy) and FERA (Family Electric Rate Assistance) programs were developed to provide our income-qualified customers with much-needed relief. Eligibility is based on annual household income combined with the number of people in a household.
Information is available on SCE’s website, www.sce.com, in multiple languages and by calling customer service at 800-645-8555. The phone centers are staffed with people who speak multiple languages, so customers can speak to people in the language they’re most comfortable speaking in.
Other bill changes are expected in 2015.
The California Public Utilities Commission is considering a new rate structure for residential customers. SCE is proposing a two-tiered rate structure that keeps protections for low-income customers and a fixed charge that would cover about one-third of fixed costs. A commission decision is expected in spring 2015.
Another rates issue that will impact customers in 2015 is SCE’s General Rate Case. The commission sets rates for day-to-day operations in this process, which is open to the public.
The commission has not yet provided a date for when a decision will be made. If the commission approves SCE’s full request, customer bills would increase an average of about 1.5 percent in 2015, 2.2 percent in 2016 and 2.4 percent in 2017.