Source: KSBW 8 | By Phil Gomez
For the second time since the start of the new year, monthly bills for Pacific Gas and Electric Company customers have gone up.
On March 1, the average electric bill for residential customers increased 9%, or roughly $14. Businesses were hit with a 10% increase.
Small business owner, Dyane Villalobos, survived the pandemic but now faces a new challenge: the rising cost of gas, rent, taxes, and utility bills.
“As small businesses, we really try to work together but at the end of the day, these bills have to be paid for us to keep the doors open that is the challenge. We still have payroll,” Villalobos said.
Maria Padilla lives in Salinas with three other adults in a two-bedroom house. She’s on disability and often dips into her savings to make ends meet.
“With everything that’s going on this rate increases would be like a bomb going off because there’s a lot of families in need right now,” Padilla said.
The Watsonville-based Central Coast Energy Service coordinates energy bill assistance programs for low-income residents.
“We’re seeing a ton of people right now,” said Dennis Osmer, Central Coast Energy Service’s executive director.
During the pandemic, the state implemented a no shutoff order to help low-income residents who were not able to pay their utility bills. That program is expected to end soon.
“They’re higher than they’ve ever been because there’s a moratorium on shutoffs, which will end in June or July,” Osmer said. “Come summer, it’s like a double whammy with the increases.”
PG&E said the drought reduced the amount of cheaper hydroelectric power and the prices of natural gas are up about 90%. The utility said it’s just passing the costs to its customers.
The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a consumer watchdog group, blames the California Public Utilities Commission for these rate increases.
“The only reason our bills are skyrocketing is because the California Public Utilities Commission has approved increase after increase after increase,” said TURN executive director Mark Toney.
Toney said PG&E isn’t done.
The company is seeking approval for a 30% increase in 2023 to help fund its effort to bury 3,600 miles of distribution lines.