Breaking news on rising rnergy costs in California...

From Associated Press: "Calif. regulators approve SoCal Edison rate hikes"

ROSEMEAD, Calif.—California regulators have approved a Southern California Edison Co. rate hike that adds $2 to $4 a month to the average residential bill.

Rosemead-based Edison says rate hikes are necessary to upgrade transmission lines and buy equipment.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved the increases Thursday. The hikes go into effect April 4.

PUC president Michael Peevey says it will add $2 to the average monthly residential bill of $85, but consumer groups estimate it's closer to $4. Rates for business firms also increase.

Edison estimates 65 percent of its 4.3 million residential customers would see little or no change in their monthly charges because they participate in special programs for low-income families or consume little power.

From Orange County Register: "Regulators approve $2.1 Billion electric rate hike"

State regulators have approved a rate hike that will give Southern California Edison an extra $2.1 billion in revenue over the next three years.

The hike will raise the average residential bill $2 or so, to $85 a month, officials said.

Some details of the proposal changed on the dais, but regulators granted the utility $106 million for employee incentive pay, and $4.4 million to start re-licensing San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, where licenses expire in 2022.

Thursday morning, the California Public Utilities Commission chose the greater increase of two rate hike proposals before it, on a 4-1 vote. Emerging victorious was a slightly-scaled-down plan penned by commission president – and former Southern California Edison executive – Michael Peevey.

The rejected proposal would have given Southern California Edison a smaller increase – about $1.4 billion over three years. That was not enough.

"I cannot support a decision that would leave California hamstrung," Peevey said. The less-expensive rate hike "would require deferral of vital infrastructure projects and potentially lay off hundreds of workers," he said.

Commissioner Dian Grueneich was the only one to disagree.

"If ever there was a time to leave these dollars in the hands of Southern California Edison's customers, now is the time," said Grueneich.

The smaller increase was robust and prudent, she said. It would have saved ratepayers $765 million over the next three years, while still allowing Southern California Edison to invest in infrastructure.

Grueneich took particular exception to Southern California Edison's claims that the smaller increase would force it to lay off 1,000 workers. "Edison's claim defies logic," she said, suggesting the utility was "crying wolf."

More excerpts:

"Edison is taking advantage of economic concerns to drive through rate hikes that can only add to the pain," TURN executive director Mark Toney said in a prepared statement. "The CPUC did all Edison customers a disservice today."

That sentiment was echoed by the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, the PUC's independent consumer advocacy arm. This decision gives Edison "excessive revenue increases," it said in a prepared statement.

"The cumulative amount of the increases and the resulting rise in electric rates will impose an additional financial burden on Edison's Southern California customers and households during these difficult economic times," said DRA Deputy Director David Ashuckian in the statement.