‘Power talk’ at City Hall brings together residents, Southern California Edison reps to address lingering issues

Throughout the 90-minute event, the most common questions were related to the need for planned maintenance in the summer and difficulties reaching customer service.
Southern California Edison customers got a chance to engage in dialogue with officials from the utility company at Palm Springs City Hall Tuesday evening.

Palm Springs residents concerned about issues involving Southern California Edison (SCE) got a chance to speak directly with representatives of the utility company Tuesday evening, discussing topics that ranged from solar power to customer service.

Driving the news: Roughly three dozen people attended the “power talk” at City Hall, first hearing prepared remarks from SCE representatives and then asking questions.

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  • The event was held in response to recent issues raised by customers, including planned outages being done in the middle of an extreme heat wave, rate increases, and more.

Looking back: In recent years, summer blackouts and maintenance scheduled during the hottest months of the year have also been common complaints. Two years ago, hundreds of residents united to form a watchdog group to look into reports of higher-than-average bills. 

At issue: Throughout the 90-minute event, the most common questions were related to the need for planned maintenance in the summer, when electric-powered air conditioning units are needed most, and the difficulty in reaching customer service when outages occur.

  • SCE officials said summer outages are needed in order to balance the workload throughout the year. Outages are planned all year, they said, adding that winter is a particularly busy time.

  • “We accelerate our work in the cooler times of the year,” said Josh Leibelt, district manager for the Palm Springs service center. “There might be a perception that we’re slowing it down. But we’re working all year.”

What they’re saying: Don Barrett, one of the speakers, noted that he and some 2,000 other residents don’t receive notification of service disruptions because they do not have individual accounts.

  • Known as “primary metering,” it mostly affects mobile home park residents whose bill is handled through a single account assigned to the entire neighborhood.

  • “Some of these residents have no way to receive notifications,” Barrett said. “They can’t go online and see the status of their neighborhood.

Looking ahead: An SCE official acknowledged the issue is troublesome, adding that the utility company hopes to make communication improvements in the future.

  • “That’s a known concern,” said Luis Lara, outage communications director, “… It’s a conversation we’re having. We’re looking to revamp our notifications, our verbiage, and our outage management system. Along with that will come different functionalities.”

Bottom line: Palm Springs Mayor Grace Garner, who was on hand to take note of residents’ questions, said a future, similar event would be planned for the fall and that answers to some of the questions at Tuesday’s meeting would be posted online.


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