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State regulators approve PG&E rate hike to pay costs related to wildfires

Posted at 6:27 PM, Apr 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-26 21:27:58-04

PG&E ratepayers can expect to see a higher electricity bill and it may not be the last of rate increases.

California Regulators approved a $373 million PG&E rate hike Thursday.

This interim rate hike is associated with the utility’s 2018 Catastrophic Event Memorandum Account (CEMA).

For the average bill, customers can expect to pay about $3.50 extra over a 12-month period, but it’s one of several increases customers might have to cover.

“They should be repairing what they need to repair and not put that cost on the people who need electricity,” said Kathleen Smith, a Morro Bay resident.

Smith says she already pays enough for her electricity bill and doesn’t want to pay any more.

“It’s too expensive and I live in an RV currently that shouldn’t cost that much but on average figure especially here in Morro Bay it’s like $100 a month,” said Smith.

The rate increase pays for repairs, brush clearing and power restoration associated with nine catastrophic wildfires and storms in 2016 and 2017.

According to PG&E, none of the $373 million generated from this will be used for lawsuits the utility is facing for some of the devastating wildfires.

One man is happy to pay the higher rate and hopes it will encourage people to conserve energy.

“Throughout the day they leave their lights on, their lamps on, bathroom lights on and keep the water heater up, there’s no need for any of that,” said Scott Barnes, San Luis Obispo resident.

PG&E said it appreciates the CPUC’s decision considering its financial status.

“The impacts of climate change have made extreme weather events and natural disasters more powerful and their effects on PG&E’s infrastructure more significant and costly to repair,” said Paul Doherty, a PG&E spokesperson. “We believe this outcome is a reasonable compromise of parties’ positions and represents a fair outcome for all parties involved.”

However, this is not the only increase PG&E is looking at.

The utility is asking for another rate increase to pay for wildfire safety and to attract investment through its bankruptcy.

Here’s the break down of those additional potential charges:

PG&E’s 2020-2022 General Rate Case (GRC) proposal would increase a typical-use residential customer’s energy bill by approximately $10.57 per month, which includes $8.73 per month for electricity, and $1.84 for natural gas.

PG&E’s Cost of Capital application would increase a typical-use residential customer’s energy bill by approximately $12.09 per month, which includes $7.84 per month for electricity, and $4.25 for natural gas.

It would amount to about $22 dollars more per month if approved and would take effect in January of 2020.

“That one sounds a little steep, but if you think about giving and what you are giving to, that helps ease the pain of the increase a little bit more,” said Barbara Pauls, a Paso Robles resident.

Some people even said they would consider going solar if rates continued to go up.

The average $3.50 rate increase does not include the 2015 Butte Fire, the 2017 Northern California fires or the 2018 Camp Fire.

Customers could potentially have to pay for costs related to those events, but that is unknown at this time.

PG&E said the $3.50 rate increase will take effect soon after the CPUC’s final decision sometime this year.