Friday, March 11, San Francisco

TURN said today that the CPUC was right to sanction PG&E for unauthorized rate hikes, and also should require the company to pay the costs of its recent failures to effectively communicate with customers about changes in rate structures. TURN warned that these mistakes, bungled attempts by PG&E to comply with broader Commission effort to switch utility customers to time-based pricing, do not bode well for the future.

The CPUC had ordered PG&E to gradually shift from the tiered rates that reward conservation to time-based rates, over TURN’s objections. Just as TURN predicted, the flatter tiers have already caused “rate shock” among customers as P&GE jacked up rates for Tier 2 usage.

The botched bills come on the heels of another PG&E failure, in which customers were sent inaccurate information and directed to an inaccurate website to explain changes impacting those on E6 rates. “PG&E just can’t get billing right,” said Toney. “The CPUC should take a step back and reconsider its ill-advised attraction to time-based rates.

“With these failures it is impossible to think PG&E will be able to properly explain or implement the much bigger changes that are ahead,” Toney said. “And we’re already seeing the big problem with flatter tiers. They mean higher bills for most customers. It makes more sense to keep tiered rates that reward conservation and force big energy hogs pay their fair share.