Skyrocketing PG&E bills will soar higher after state ruling

PG&E’s sky-high bills are already rising far faster than inflation

OAKLAND — PG&E bills, which are already at record highs, are set to skyrocket in the coming weeks after state regulators approved a new spending plan for the utility behemoth on Thursday.

Monthly bills for PG&E customers who receive both electricity and gas services are expected to rise by an estimated $32.62 per month beginning January 1, 2024. That’s a staggering 12.8% increase set to take effect immediately following the holiday shopping season. The estimate was published on the website of the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

The agency’s five governor-appointed commissioners unanimously approved a revenue plan for PG&E that is expected to significantly increase the financial burden on Bay Area and other California customers.

While the bill increase was unavoidable, it was a bitter pill for customers and advocates to swallow.

“You should be sending PG&E back to the drawing board,” energy advocate Jessica Tovar told the PUC before the vote. “They have incinerated communities, devastated people and raised rates over and over.”

The Oakland-based company has been linked to a number of disasters, including a deadly gas explosion that destroyed a San Bruno neighborhood and a series of destructive — and in some cases fatal — wildfires that raged across Northern California. In 2020, the utility pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and admitted that its equipment started the 2018 Camp Fire, which destroyed Paradise.

“PG&E rate hikes are outrageous,” said Cheryl Maynard, a Camp Fire survivor from Butte County. “Fire victims still have not been made whole.”

According to the company, it is working to improve the safety of its electricity and gas systems. The PUC decision allows PG&E to carry out a hybrid program of upgrades, including burying 1,230 miles of power lines and insulating hundreds of miles of overhead lines.

“Undergrounding is the best tool in the highest fire-risk areas to protect our customers and hometowns and improve reliability year-round at the lowest cost to our customers,” PG&E CEO Patricia Poppe said in a statement.

Customers, however, were outraged by the decision, which will result in higher monthly bills.

“California energy consumers cannot support endless rate increases,” Kevin Lee, a PG&E customer who spoke before the PUC vote, said.

“We are supporting PG&E’s criminal negligence,” Lee said in a statement. “Decline the PG&E giveaway.” “Enough already.”

PUC commissioners acknowledged the harsh reality of higher monthly bills before voting to impose them anyway.

“We know we are facing an affordability crisis,” PUC Commissioner John Reynolds said before voting to approve the general rate case, which would increase PG&E revenue while increasing customer costs.

Reynolds was once an adviser to former PUC commissioner Carla Peterman, who is now a PG&E executive.

“Small businesses, workers, renters, and many other Californians are struggling under the weight of PG&E bills that have skyrocketed at three times the rate of inflation since 2020,” Sam Liccardo, former mayor of San Jose and one of the key leaders of the advocacy group FAIR California, said in an interview with this news organization last month. FAIR California is a coalition of organizations that have banded together to oppose PG&E bill increases.

According to the PUC estimate, electricity bills will rise by $22.20 per month on average, while gas bills will rise by $10.43 per month.

In comparison, the Bay Area inflation rate rose 2.8% over the one-year period ending in October, implying that by early 2024, PG&E bills will be rising more than four times faster than consumer prices.

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