South County : SDG&E; Quadrupled Electric Rates in 12 Years, Report Says

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. customers were saddled with a bigger rate increase--434.93%--than those of any other major American utility, over a 12-year period ended in 1983, according to a report of a regulatory oversight group.

In south Orange County, 52,615 residents get electricity from SDG&E.; During the 12-year period, though, they received a 345% increase in electric bills, said Elizabeth Abbott, SDG&E; spokeswoman. Monthly rates for the typical household, using 400 kilowatt hours of electricity a month, rose from $10.25 in 1972 to $45.62 in 1984, she said.

The 246-page report, prepared by the National Assn. of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, shows that SDG&E;'s residential rate increase between 1972 and 1983 was more than twice the national average increase of 196%.

The association is a quasi-governmental group of representatives from utility-regulating bodies from every state and the District of Columbia. It based its conclusions on annual data the utilities are required to file with the federal government, said Michael Foley, the group's director of financial analysis.

The group's report, "Electric Utility Performance Study," compares the 112 largest electric utilities in the country, Foley said. SDG&E; also was ranked 98th in terms of "productivity deterioration," and the company was "about average" in terms of its financial performance over the 12 years, he said.

"They didn't do that great," Foley said. "In all three categories, only 16 companies were below average consistently. SDG&E; was among the 16."

An SDG&E; spokesman, informed of the findings, said the report of the utility's rating was "probably valid" and "accurate." But, he said, the report "draws on old data and paints a very negative picture that is not reflective of what's happening now."

Today, spokesman Maurice Luque said, SDG&E; rates have "stabilized. . . . The fact is, the average customer paid a lower bill on Jan. 1 of this year than on Jan. 1, 1984."

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