Deregulation and demand have made next year's local electricity costs a guessing game.
So far, SMUD doesn't plan to raise rates, Roseville might, and PG&E says it has to. Here's what's up
Skyrocketing wholesale power rates. Electricity bills doubling and even tripling for customers of San Diego Gas and Electric Co. Power reserves strained to the limits.
California's restructured electricity market wasn't supposed to look like this. And the picture may change again before the Sacramento region experiences the brunt of deregulation and surging demand:
* The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the country's wholesale power markets, expects its staff to report on rising power costs in California and offer suggestions for "correcting" the market in November.
* State regulators are conducting a similar investigation. Both the federal and state studies will examine whether people with a vested interest in power prices have manipulated the market.
* Gov. Gray Davis has told state energy officials he will recommend methods for dealing with the power crisis within one to three months.
* Meanwhile, PG&E is working on tactics for lifting a rate freeze that protects its customers from the high rates San Diego residents have been paying. PG&E claimed in a Sept. 14 Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it has paid $2.2 billion more for power this summer than it could collect from customer charges.
The utilities generally charge their Sacramento area residential customers about 7 to 11 cents per kilowatt hour, but have been paying up to 75 cents per kwh when they've had to buy power on the open market this summer. Regulators later capped those wholesale rates at 25 cents per kwh. Open market wholesale prices, which smooth out the spikes, averaged 12 cents per kwh in June and 10.6 cents in July.
Sometime after the potential changes work their …