San Diego Gas and Electric Posts Record Profits, Again.

For San Diego’s investor-owned utility and energy grid builder, 2023 was another record-breaking profit-making year. The company made $936 million according to reporting by Rob Nikolewski of the Union-Tribune. That’s $21 million more than the company made in 2022. 

SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra, a natural gas company that, among other things, builds and maintains liquified natural gas infrastructure along the Gulf Coast. In a call with investors this week, CEO Jeff Martin said the company was in “great shape.” 

SDG&E’s customers, however, still face very high energy bills as the company that’s largely shifted toward building and maintaining infrastructure fortifies the grid against wildfires and prepares for mass electrification to meet the state’s climate goals. The company makes a guaranteed return on investment for pretty much anything it builds. 

In a statement, Sempra spokeswoman Katie Nieri said affordability remains “top of mind” for the company. 

“Our utility subsidiaries are focused on delivering solutions to customers, including shareholder-funded assistance programs and income-qualified bill discounts for those with financial hardships,” Nieri wrote. 

But a local group that’s trying to replace SDG&E with a publicly-owned utility in the city of San Diego, called Power San Diego, called Sempra’s posted profits a reason to “dump SDG&E.” 

“People ask how the not-for-profit utility can save so much money for consumers,” wrote Bill Powers, chairman of the campaign in a press release. “It’s simple: The non-profit will do what it says – eliminate profit.” 

SDG&E created a political action committee to fight Power San Diego’s effort. Matthew Awbrey, a spokesman for that PAC called Responsible Energy San Diego, called the public effort a “costly gamble that puts taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in debt with no real plan and guarantee of benefits.”

The city has been studying fully publicly-owned power since it resigned a 20-year contract with SDG&E a few years ago. Results from the first part of that study showed a public takeover of the grid could save ratepayers over $180 million over 30 years. But SDG&E has disputed estimates over how much it would cost for the city to buy-out their infrastructure in the past, arguing that once the full study is complete, SDG&E will remain “the best option.” 

For some time, SDG&E offered the highest electricity rates in the country. But Pacific Gas and Electric, the investor-owned utility serving northern California, recently took SDG&E’s place as the most expensive, Nikolewski reports. SDG&E slashed delivery prices by 11 percent this winter. But customers may see a price spike mid-year as SDG&E’s regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, is working to approve a number of planned costs for wildfire prevention, tree trimming and other infrastructure.

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