PG&E Is Raising Electric Rates On March 1. Here’s How Much More It Will Cost

Feb 12, 2022 | In the News, PG&E

Source: San Francisco Chronicle  |  By Rachel Swan

PG&E is raising its monthly electricity rates by more than 9% for the average residential customer, a move to generate revenue as the utility grapples with ballooning global natural gas prices.

The new rate plan, unanimously approved Thursday by the California Public Utilities Commission and set to take effect March 1, would include a 10% bump for small business and larger increases for industrial facilities, for an average increase of 12.69% across PG&E’s entire customer base.

PG&E and California’s two other investor-owned utilities — Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — present an annual forecast to the commission each year, estimating the cost of energy supply. Once the commission approves that estimate, the utility passes those costs along to ratepayers with no mark-up.

In its most-recent application, PG&E said that costs last year exceeded forecasts by about $287 million, according to Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma, who presented the report Thursday. She pointed to a volatile natural gas market as one of the main factors stressing the utility.

Although PG&E also draws hydroelectric power from a system of pipes connected to dams and reservoirs, climate change and a persistent drought have diminished that supply, Shiroma said.

She noted that the new rates would increase residential customers’ bills by an average of $16.37 a month, or $10 for low-income customers. A PG&E representative said the average increase would be closer to $14.

All three of the state’s investor-owned utilities have raised rates over the past few months, prompting consumers to “justifiably” voice concerns and objections, Commissioner Darcie Houck said. She reluctantly supported the plan while voicing misgivings, saying the added expense creates hardships for California residents.

“We understand that any increase to our customers’ energy bills can be challenging, especially during this ongoing pandemic and (its) economic impacts,” PG&E spokesperson Lynsey Paulo told The Chronicle. “We are here to help our customers manage their energy use and costs,” she added. “We offer a variety of tools, rebates, discounts, rate options and financial assistance programs to help them take control of their energy usage and lower their monthly bills.”

But Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, accused PG&E of misleading consumers by presenting every rate increase in isolation. The current change follows a planned PG&E rate increase at the beginning of the year, which raised monthly gas and electric bills about 9%.

“There is a trainload of increases stacked on top of each other here that’s not being talked about,” Toney said.

His watchdog group is advocating for gradual rate increases tied to the consumer price index.

“Anything beyond that,” he said, “they would really have to justify it.”

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