SAN DIEGO, California: San Diego Gas and Electric has agreed to refund $51.6 million to consumers and pay a $5.5 million fine after fraud was discovered in a program designed to encourage the public to purchase costly energy-efficient lightbulbs.
San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison created a program in 2017 to encourage consumers to purchase costlier energy-efficient bulbs by providing incentives to manufacturers and stores to ship and stock them.
However, an investigation found that 15 million subsidized bulbs went unaccounted for, at a cost to utility consumers of about $55 million. Further, it was discovered that the number of bulbs shipped in 2017 under the program was three times the number of bulbs sold in the state.
Investigators found that bulbs were overstocked or never sold, and at least one manufacturer falsified shipping invoices for bulbs that were never delivered.
The program was discontinued in 2020.
The San Diego Gas and Electric settlement calls for shareholder money to be used to reimburse consumers for money spent on the program from 2017 to 2019.
The utility also was fined for filing a false statement with the Public Utilities Commission.
"SDG&E took ownership of what went wrong," spokeswoman Helen Gao said in an email to the San Diego Union-Tribune, as reported by the Associated Press. "The lessons learned from the program failure have resulted in meaningful changes, including new procedures and training, to strengthen accountability and prevent this from ever happening again."