Southern California Edison has a proposed rate increase plan for the years 2012-2014 that will be rigorously reviewed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in a transparent process known as General Rate Case (GRC) proceedings.

In a statement SCE says, “We are guided by the simple principle of maintaining and upgrading our region’s electrical grid in a thorough, planned way. It’s safer and more cost effective than letting equipment fail while in service. In these tough times for our region and the nation, we are also reducing our operating costs with internal efficiency measures. Our plan to upgrade Southern California’s electrical infrastructure will support thousands of exciting new jobs in the region–opportunities for power experts and for the suppliers and contractors that work alongside us, at a time when California needs it most. This plan will create more than 10,000 new California jobs in Southern California.”

According to Russ Worden, SCE’s GRC director, the current equipment and systems in place–like anything else–get old over time. Then, a decision has to be made: when is the best time to replace these systems?

“You don’t want to replace equipment too early; when it still has years of useful life to it and waste money, but you also don’t want to wait until there is an equipment failure and people are left without working electricity.”

If approved, the increase will be implemented over the next three years–$794 million additional revenue in 2012; $155 million in 2013; and $515 million in 2014.

This translates into an increase of about $3 to $9 a month for the average household, said SCE.

SCE has implemented a number of programs to assist households who may have a problem meeting their monthly electric bill, and they will extend them to the proposed hike.

The Care Program provides households below a certain income level with a 20 percent reduction on their electricity payment. “It is relatively easy to apply for, it is only a one-page form, and to check eligibility customers can call (800) 655-4555 and ask about the Care Program,” said Worden. “There is also already a small business program in place which sends employees out to inspect various businesses and helps them find ways to cut costs. They also make suggestions for upgrades and provide financial incentives for switching to more energy efficient equipment.” Customers can call (800) 736-4777 to get more information about the small business program.

Worden reminds customers that the best thing they can do if they are worried about not meeting their bill, is to call SCE which is more than willing to set up payment plans, or sign up households for the Energy Assistance or a Level Pay plans. “We value our customers, we never want to shut off anyone’s power if it can be avoided, the best thing families can do is call in.”

The decision on the GRC will be made by the California Public Utilities Commission, which is a group of five individuals who are appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate. The vote is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2012.

“We don’t make money based on rate increases. We aren’t trying to get people to use more electricity,” said Worden. According to SCE, over the past five years, through working with customers, 6.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity have been conserved–enough to power nearly a million homes for an entire year. “We are simply trying to strike a balance between keeping the system reliable and also measuring the price tag.”