San Diego, CA, Oct. 13, 2005 — San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for expedited approval of two new programs to help its customers manage expected record-high natural gas costs this winter. Utilities nationwide are experiencing increased natural gas costs due to a number of market factors including increased demand and tighter supplies.
In its first filing, SDG&E has asked for approval of new and streamlined procedures this winter to enable more customers to take advantage of special assistance programs. SDG&E is seeking CPUC approval to:
1.Suspend requirements for certain customer documentation in order to expedite and increase enrollment in the California Alternate Rates for Energy program (CARE). CARE provides a 20-percent energy bill discount to income-qualified customers.
2.Revise CARE income guidelines for seniors and disabled customers to enable an additional 18,000 customers to qualify for the CARE discounts.
3.Expand CARE outreach to include a targeted campaign to enroll eligible customers by phone.
4.Allow for more replacement of low-efficiency natural gas forced-air furnaces to provide energy and cost savings for customers eligible for its Energy Team program. The Energy Team is an energy-efficiency program that provides weatherization services at no cost to income-qualified customers.
In its second filing, SDG&E has asked for CPUC approval of a natural gas hedging plan that will help mitigate the impact of severe price spikes this winter. A portion of this insurance plan will be dedicated to its CARE customers. This hedging insurance plan is needed to help protect customers against price run-ups in the event unforeseen conditions in the market should develop.
Given the urgent need for consumer help, driven by the national rise in natural gas prices, SDG&E has asked the CPUC to consider both filing requests at its upcoming meeting Oct. 27, 2005.
Meanwhile, SDG&E has assembled a comprehensive array of programs and services to try to help consumers prepare for and manage increases in natural gas prices expected this winter. SDG&E is initiating for the winter flexible credit procedures for low-income customers experiencing difficulties paying their bills, including a no shut-off policy for those customers who make minimum payments and the waiver of certain fees, and increasing its contribution to funds to help needy customers pay bills.
Even with the possibility of customer assistance programs, SDG&E continues to urge all customers to conserve the use of energy.