PG&E Rate Hike Goes Into Effect
PG&E hiked its rates by 4.6%, effective March 1. The increase will add $8.73 to the average customer’s monthly bill and will bring the company about a billion dollars in revenue. Some rate-payers challenge the need for the hike; others have questions about it.
PG&E spokesperson Paul Moreno explained that the utility, the largest in the nation with about 16 billion customers, will use the additional income to harden its power transmission equipment in fire-prone areas, and for other safety enhancement measures like adding high-resolution cameras and weather stations, and for tree pruning.Some of the money will go to offset operational costs, such as higher fuel costs and pay raises.
Asked if any of the money will be used to pay for losses, victim compensation, or fines PG&E incurred from massive fires its equipment ignited, Moreno said the rate change “will not fund any claims or settlements that resulted from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, nor will they provide for executive compensation. Those costs are borne by shareholders.”
Not all PG&E customers are satisfied that the rate hike is justified and are pushing-back. CapRadio reporter Steve Milne spoke with Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, a rate-payer advocacy group based in San Francisco.
Toney argued that this is exactly the wrong time for the Utilities Commission to approve a rate hike because so many people are struggling financially due to the pandemic. And he said, PG&E has not used resources it already has to make needed improvements to its grid.
Moreno acknowledged the difficulties facing some customers and pointed to measures PG&E has taken to ease their burden; by providing flexible payment options, waiving security deposits and suspending service shut-offs for non-payment.