Conserve or else

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is proposing a 16 percent rate increase—the first in more than a decade—in response to higher wholesale electricity costs, the price of natural gas and a potentially dry year.

SMUD claims that the increase, proposed to take effect in May, will encourage conservation by charging higher rates to customers who use the most electricity. Specifically, the utility has proposed a “third tier” electricity rate, which would kick in if customers use more than a certain amount in a given month.

According to SMUD spokesman

Gregg Fishman, most customers would not have to pay the higher rate, but all would see an additional $5 monthly “customer charge” on their bills. SMUD customers will still be paying on average 15 percent less than

PG&E ratepayers.

Conservation will be key to keeping rates down. SMUD offers a number of programs including a home energy self-audit and various energy-saving tips.

The utility is now holding informal neighborhood meetings where SMUD energy specialists are available to talk one-on-one with customers about their personal energy use and offer tips on energy conservation. Information is also provided on solar power, weatherization and software that can monitor energy consumption in the household.

A second set of workshops, beginning March 22, will be more formal, offering customers more detailed information about the proposed rate options.

“It is the SMUD board’s commitment to listening to our customers and that is why we’re doing this,” said SMUD spokeswoman

Dace Udris. “Because we are a local public utility, we want to hear from our customers regarding the best approach to take for this rate increase.”

For more information on neighborhood workshops and energy conservation go to