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Will San Onofre shutdown affect rates?

California Public Utilities Commission has heard testimony from SDG&E and SCE, but much remains unresolved.

August 08, 2013|By Bryce Alderton

Laguna Beach residents will probably have to wait several months to find out whether their electricity rates will change as a result of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's closure.

Southern California Edison has already raised rates and San Diego Gas & Electric plans to raise rates, as both do periodically, but the increase for Edison customers may change and the amount of the SDG&E increase will depend on whether the companies get approval to reduce costs that previously went to operate and maintain the San Onofre station.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates power in the state, heard testimony from both Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric on how the shuttered nuclear plant has affected the businesses.

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"A lot has not been resolved yet," SCE spokeswoman Maureen Brown said.

Edison serves about 12,300 residents and businesses in Laguna (nearly half the city's population), while San Diego Gas & Electric has 122,000 customers in south Orange County. It wasn't immediately known how many of those customers live in Laguna Beach.

Commissioner Michael Florio is overseeing the utilities commission's investigation and asked SCE and SDG&E to propose San Onofre-related costs that could be removed from rates immediately to benefit consumers, SDG&E spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan wrote in an email.

Rates for SDG&E customers will increase Sept. 1 following regulatory approval of the company's general rate case in May. The increase was pushed to September to avoid the hot summer months when electric bills are typically high, Donovan said.

In response to Florio's request, SDG&E, which owns 20% of San Onofre, filed a motion to remove $36 million of the authorized rate increase — the portion attributed to the nuclear plant, according to Donovan.

The company also proposes returning to customers $25 million to $30 million, SDG&E's share of operating and maintenance costs at San Onofre, Donovan said.

"We have made a proposal, but to date we have been given no direction from the commission on how to proceed," Donovan said.

Edison shut down San Onofre's Unit 3 steam generator in January 2012, when radioactive coolant leaked in one of the heat transfer tubes, according to Brown. Later inspections revealed excessive wear to tubes. At the time, wear was found in Unit 2 when it was taken off-line for a planned outage.

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