PG&E power rates may be headed up

Fresh off the Stockton City Council’s approval of a substantial water rate hike, residents may also soon be forced to pay more to keep their lights on and air conditioners humming.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. says it needs an additional $2.3 billion in revenue by 2019 from its customers across Northern California, and has proposed three years of rate increases to get there. The plan must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, which will host a meeting in Stockton on Wednesday to gather comments from the public.
“What we’re worried about is making sure we’re providing the safest, most reliable energy to our customers. And that takes investment,” PG&E spokesman Donald Cutler said.
The first year, a typical PG&E customer’s bill would increase about $3 per month, Cutler said.
However, The Utility Reform Network, a watchdog group and frequent PG&E critic, says that by the third year the cumulative increase would likely amount to an extra $12 per month — a considerable bump.

“These are monthly bills that people have to pay, and I know how hot it gets in Stockton,” said Mark Toney, TURN’s executive director. He urged people with concerns to attend Wednesday’s meeting, calling it their best chance to influence the process.

In a separate review of PG&E’s plan, the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates found that the utility’s revenue request should be “significantly decreased” from $2.3 billion to about $576 million, and found rates should actually go down slightly in 2017 followed by two years of more modest increases.
PG&E says the $2.3 billion is needed to upgrade its electrical infrastructure and power plants, bolster safety measures, support clean technology such as solar power, and improve emergency preparedness and customer service. The utility says that even if its request is approved, its rates will be about 25 percent below the national average.
— Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or abreitler@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/breitlerblog and on Twitter @alexbreitler.