Coronavirus: Residential customers of Southern California Edison and LADWP see higher utility bills, but relief is available

Many Southern Californians are discovering that staying at home amid the coronavirus pandemic can come with a perhaps unexpected cost: a spike in utility costs due to higher usage.

"It's interesting, from our standpoint, overall our power use is particularly down quite a bit because there's no business and industry going on," said Marty Adams, the general manager and chief engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

As customers use less energy, less-expensive energy is used, which could help to mitigate costs for everyone.

"Even last week we had days up to 40-plus-percent renewable energy, which is basically free, coming into the grid," Adams said. "If it warms up this weekend it'll be even cheaper than that."

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But that doesn't negate all of the issues -- like unprecedented levels of unemployment.

Southern California Edison's Robert Villegas said the utility knows times are tough and the economic fallout will affect millions.

"We're asking that they reach out to us directly because because we do have the ability to help them with their bills, and to make payment arrangements, and to have other sorts of assistance," Villegas said of the utility's customers.

Edison has several assistance programs to help those in need, including the Energy Assistance Fund that helps customers with a one-time issue on their bill.

Furloughed or lost your job? You can apply for the California Alternate Rates for Energy program, which offers up to a 30% ongoing discount on utilities.

"A lot of folks say a lot of people don't quality for that," Villegas said. "But I can tell you before this COVID emergency a full one-third of our 5 million accounts qualified for the program."
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