PG&E monthly electricity bills rose on March 1, the company said Monday — but, thanks to a drop in cost for natural gas usage, overall bills are headed for their first decline in years.
On March 1, electricity bills for PG&E customers rose to an average of $111.59 for the typical residential customer who consumes 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month, a 0.2 percent increase.
“However, for residential customers, this increase will be largely or entirely offset by a higher California Climate Credit for 2018, part of the state’s overall effort to fight climate change,” PG&E spokesman Matt Nauman said.
While monthly electricity increases 26 cents, starting with the next cycle of bills, natural gas bills are lower by 1.3 percent. The overall effect will be a decline of 1.1 percent.
Despite the decrease in gas rates and the small increase in electricity bills, a consumer group noted that PG&E customers nevertheless must confront a rising burden compared with past years.
“PG&E can nickel and dime you to death,” said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer group. “This electricity increase can be small, but how many times a year does PG&E come in and ask the regulators for small increases, saying it’s just a few cents. The problem is the overall increase.”
Overall PG&E bills, including costs for both natural gas and electricity, have soared in recent years.
At the end of 2015, PG&E monthly bills averaged $137.66 for the average residential customer with both gas and electric expenses. By the end of 2016, that had increased by an average of $14.14 —a jump of 10.3 percent in a year. In 2017, an 8.8 percent rise led those monthly bills to reach an average of $165.10 a month.
Even with the modest overall decrease in early 2018 for PG&E’s combined gas and electricity bills, compared with 2017, monthly utility costs are still 18.6 percent higher than what PG&E customers faced in 2015.
In 2016, a federal jury convicted PG&E for crimes the utility committed before and after the explosion. In January of this year, PG&E became a convicted felon when a judge imposed the maximum sentence for the company’s explosion-linked crimes.
PG&E also is under intense scrutiny in the aftermath of a fatal array of wildfires that torched the North Bay wine country and nearby regions in October. State fire investigators and the PUC are attempting to determine what role PG&E’s equipment might have played in causing, or contributing to, the fires.
The embattled utility noted that customers can access multiple tools to help them control their monthly bills. Among them are bill forecast alerts, high usage alerts, a home energy checkup, and comparisons of electricity rate plans.
“When temperatures got cold last winter, people began to realize how high their bills were,” Spatt said. “Eventually, consumers will revolt because they can’t afford their utility bills.”