At a hearing in downtown Los Angeles, Southern California Edison made its case to raise $3.2 billion over the next three years by raising the rates for residential and business customers.
According to Russell Worden, Southern California Edison's Director of Regulatory Affairs, the utility needs the money to pay for infrastructure upgrades and increase employee pay. He defends pay hikes as part of the cost of doing business.
"We have about 18,000 Edison employees and about 7,000 contingent employees, and the general rate case funds their salaries and benefits," said Worden.
Edison currently has a five-tier rate system. For example, if your air conditioner runs for an hour and your overall electricity usage is low, you'll pay just under $2 an hour. If you use a lot of power and you're in the highest tier, No. 5, your cost to stay cool more than doubles to $4.80 an hour.
Jim Fanous of Arcadia said he doesn't mind the rate increase.
"I think it's very reasonable with the cost of living, and Southern California Edison is a good company. They're serving their customers and they usually use that to build new power plants and update the transmission lines," said Fanous.
Robert Thomas of La Crescenta has an issue with the rate hike being used for pay raises.
"Sometimes raising rates are necessary for infrastructure and things like that, but in this business climate, it's difficult to ask to raise salaries when so many people are unemployed," said Thomas.
The judge is expected to submit a recommendation to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) sometime this fall. Southern California Edison said it expects the CPUC to make its final decision on the rate increase request by the end of the year.