PG&E customers are in for another financial hit as state regulators greenlight a new spending plan for the utility giant.
Already climbing at a rate exceeding inflation, PG&E bills are poised to surge even higher after a unanimous decision by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Thursday.
Starting January 1, 2024, customers receiving both electricity and gas services from PG&E can anticipate an average monthly increase of $32.62, marking a staggering 12.8% jump right after the holiday season, according to estimates posted on the PUC website.
The five governor-appointed commissioners endorsed a revenue plan that is set to significantly escalate the financial burden on customers in the Valley and other parts of California. While the hike wasn’t entirely unexpected, it was met with discontent from customers and advocates alike. Energy advocates urged the PUC to send PG&E back to the drawing board, citing the company’s history of community devastation, repeated rate hikes, and its connection to disasters such as the San Bruno gas explosion and Northern California wildfires.
Pacific Gas & Electric, based in Oakland, has faced severe criticism for its involvement in various catastrophes, including pleading guilty in 2020 to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter related to the 2018 Camp Fire. PG&E claims it is working to enhance the safety of its systems, with plans to bury 1,230 miles of power lines and insulate hundreds of miles of overhead lines.
Despite these efforts, customers expressed their frustration at the decision, arguing that California energy consumers cannot endure endless rate increases. PG&E customers accused the company of criminal negligence and called for rejection.
PUC commissioners acknowledged the challenges posed by higher bills but proceeded to impose the increased costs. Commissioner John Reynolds recognized the affordability crisis, stating that small businesses, workers, renters, and many Californians are grappling with bills that have surged three times faster than inflation since 2020.
Sam Liccardo, former mayor of San Jose and a leader of the advocacy group FAIR California, emphasized the significant disparities, noting that PG&E bills would rise more than four times faster than the current pace of consumer price increases. According to PUC estimates, average electricity bills will increase by $22.20 per month, while gas bills will see a monthly jump of $10.43.