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Sitting in the dark is free Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Sep 07 2013 12:00 PM

Hello wound, meet salt.

In other words, hello SDG&E rate hike, meet the inferno that is a heatwave that coincides with an increase in how much money it’s going to cost us to use electricity.

In case you’ve been passed out because of heat exhaustion and hadn’t heard the news, on Sept. 1 SDG&E implemented a cost increase that, on average, amounts to just under 10 percent.

(If someone were to pull me aside — into an air-conditioned coffeehouse — and tell me about Big Energy’s secret ability to control the weather, thus increasing demand for their product, I would listen with a little more open-mindedness than I might have in the past.)

As always with SDG&E, how much you pay depends on how much you use. But the invariable fact is you will pay more, whether it’s two bucks or $20.

The power at my place went out this week. It was the second time in as many weeks.

With the fans I use to push hot air around from room to room disabled, the backyard was just as good a place as any to pass the time in the dark.

The dogs seem puzzled that I’d be spending time with them outside rather than on the couch checking emails, following Twitter, reviewing depositions and listening to the television. But they settled down soon enough, happy to share the cool patch of cement that had been providing  them respite from the suffocating heat.

It wasn’t exactly like the great Southwest Blackout of 2011, but the buzzing of neighbors outside chatting and trying to make the most of the situation was similar.

Some folks shared beers with one another because they didn’t want them to go bad.

Others complained about SDG&E’s monopoly on providing electricity. They swore to install solar paneling to escape the evil clutches of monopolized utilities.

I eavesdropped on their conversations because I was forced to. My cell phone battery died and without an immediate way to recharge it, I had to stay unplugged.

It wasn’t that long ago, during California’s rolling blackouts, that the promise of varied utility providers seemed like something more than just wishful thinking.

Competition translates into better pricing for consumers. But here we are in 2013 facing a modest rate hike without a viable option to turn to.

Maybe it was the breeze that made it happen. Or the thought that at least with the power off, I wouldn’t be charged for those few precious hours of sitting in the dark. Whatever it was, I felt more relaxed than I had in a while.

When the neighbors cheered because the lights came back on I went inside, plugged in my phone, logged onto the computer and got back to work.

The costly, stuffy and uncomfortable feeling returned in no time.

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