PG&E customers getting a credit on their April bill, but it’s not extra

Don’t be misled by an email coming from PG&E about a credit on your April bill.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. forwarded to some customers an email from the California Public Utilities Commission saying their April bill will include a credit that “may help offset energy costs from higher usage as Californians have stayed at home during the recent month in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

In reality, PG&E customers were entitled to this California Climate Credit before the coronavirus came along. It’s just good timing that the credit, which always comes in April, will arrive at a time when residential electricity usage is spiking and many people have lost income.

“It makes it sound like they’re giving us a gift,” said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer group. “This is not something PG&E is doing out of the goodness of its heart.”

The credit comes from a state program that requires power plants, natural gas distributors and other large greenhouse gas emitters to buy carbon pollution permits, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. The state distributes the money to consumers through their utility bills. Normally, electricity customers get a credit in April and October; natural gas customers get just one payment, in April.

The email doesn’t say how much the credit will be. For that, you’d have to find a PG&E press release.