State utility regulators voted Thursday to increase rates for Southern California Edison Co. customers by $200 million over the next 10 years to lessen the burden of energy-crisis power contracts on San Diego Gas & Electric Co. ratepayers.
Edison executives said the rate increase could cost large industrial users, such as steel mills, more than $85,000 a month. A typical hospital would pay an additional $3,000 a month, schools $60 and residential users about $2.
Rates would increase by a similar amount for customers of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in Central and Northern California.
The vote by the California Public Utilities Commission alters a formula approved in December to divide the costs of the electricity contracts among the state's three large investor-owned utilities. SDG&E, a subsidiary of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, had complained that its customers were being saddled with at least $368 million in extra costs needed to pay some of the $7.4 billion in above-market costs for contracts signed by state negotiators during the energy crisis of 2000 and 2001.
PUC President Michael Peevey, who was on the losing end of the December vote, prevailed Thursday on a 3-1 tally; two commissioners who supported the old payment formula have since left. Peevey termed the vote "a fair outcome" that would prove less burdensome for the 90% of ratepayers who live in the Edison and PG&E service areas than for the 10% of customers served by SDG&E.