PG&E customer bills to rise 3.4% under proposed rate deal

PG&E reached a settlement agreement on Friday to raise monthly bills by an average of $5.69 per month beginning next year to help fund wildfire safety investments.

The agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission and other parties would increase the bill for a typical electric and gas customer by 3.4%. The agreement requires judicial review, public comment and final approval by the commission, which is expected next year.

The rate increase would help fund PG&E’s plans to install stronger poles and covered power lines in areas with high wildfire risk, to clear branches of an estimated 120 million trees away from lines, and to inspect 81,000 miles of power lines annually.

These efforts support PG&E’s most important responsibility, which is the safety of our customers and the communities we serve,” Andy Vesey, CEO of PG&E’s utility subsidiary, said in a statement. “This agreement furthers our commitment to deliver safe and reliable energy to our customers including making our system more resilient to the growing threat of wildfires.”

The rate increase would not fund settlement claims related to 2017 and 2018 wildfires and would not fund executive compensation. When the company filed its first outline of the rate case last year, it envisioned raising average monthly bills by $10.57.

The settlement calls for PG&E’s revenue to increase by 6.8% in 2020 to $9.1 billion. Revenue would increase by 3.5% in 2021 and 3.9% in 2022 under the settlement. It wasn’t immediately clear how much customers’ rates would rise in 2021 and 2022.

The Utility Reform Network, Coalition of California Utility Employees, National Diversity Coalition, Center for Accessible Technology, Small Business Utility Advocates and the California City-County Street Light Association are the other parties in the settlement agreement.

“This settlement puts the ball squarely in the CPUC’s court. PG&E has said most of this money will be devoted to vital safety improvements that are long overdue. It is up to the commission to make sure the money isn’t diverted or misspent, and that PG&E comes through with the promised upgrades,” Mark Toney, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Utility Reform Network, said in a statement.

The settlement comes a day after the state PUC blocked PG&E and other California utilities’ requests to raise profit margins to help attract investors, rejecting the utilities’ proposals to increase rates. Those proposals were separate from the general rate increase PG&E and regulators agreed to Friday.

On Thursday, PG&E Corp. CEO Bill Johnson, to whom Vesey reports, told senators at a hearing in Washington that the company would not seek rate increases to cover the cost of its bankruptcy, but had other rate-increase proposals under consideration that would fund other programs, including wildfire safety.