Customers Bewildered By New PG&E Rate Plan

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Tens of thousands of PG&E customers have gotten a reprieve from a looming deadline to choose a rate plan that will determine how much they’ll pay for electricity.

Peninsula resident Marsha Townsend told KPIX 5 the letter came as a surprise.

It said that PG&E was pulling the plug on the rate plan she’s enjoyed for 25 years, a plan that rewards customers for cutting electricity use between noon and 6 p.m. when most are away.

“We were very upset,” Townsend said.

The problem customers have had hasn’t been with PG&E changing plans, but rather because the utility has not made it easy to choose between the four new plans being offered.

“I could not get through, and I tried 10 or 12 times,” said Townsend.

She said the PG&E website wasn’t much help either.

Marcel Hawiger of the Utility reform network is not opposed to the plan changes in general. It’s how is handling it the change.
“They communicated it incredibly badly,” said Hawiger.

The utility only gave customers a month to choose a new plan.

“There was misleading and inaccurate information on many of the letters PG&E sent to the customers,” Hawiger explained.

An administrative law judge agreed. She ruled the transition has “caused widespread confusion” among PG&E customers.

“We understand. We know that this is a complicated issue,” said PG&E spokesperson Cutler.

The utility says it is improving its outreach.

Though those who don’t make a choice will automatically be enrolled in a plan that rewards energy savings before 3 p.m. and after 8 p.m.

That is an option that — according to Hawiger and even PG&E’s own data — isn’t the best choice for most.

“Most of them will do worse on the default option,” said Hawiger.

Thats something, the Townsends would like to avoid, but they haven’t figured out what the right choice is yet.

“How do you make a decision if you don’t have all the information?” Townsend asked.

This week was the scheduled deadline to choose a plan, but PG&E has now extended the deadline until May 3rd.

PG&E said the rate change is necessary because the existing peak periods are outdated and there’s now more electricity available during the day because of solar.

You can find information explaining PG&E’s electricity rates here, but customers will have to log in with their account information to select a plan.