PG&E power bills are set to jump in March, but the utility’s customers might escape the brunt of hefty increases in bills slated for later in 2017, 2018 and 2019, consumer groups said Tuesday.
Ratepayers would be obliged to pay 1.1 percent more for their combined gas and electricity bill compared to costs as of Wednesday, according to a proposal issued by an administrative law judge with the state Public Utilities Commission. Originally, PG&E had sought a 5.8 percent increase in combined gas and electricity bills for 2017.
The PUC judge’s proposal must receive final approval from the PUC’s commissioners before it can take effect, but consumer advocates cheered the plan Tuesday.
“This is an overdue win for PG&E’s customers who have been burdened by big increases in their gas and electric bills this winter,” said Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California.
The judge’s proposed decision stems from a far-reaching general rate case for PG&E that is designed to cover the great majority of the revenue the company seeks to extract from ratepayers. The general rate case occurs roughly every three years, and the current one would cover this year through 2019.
The most recent proposal from the PUC judge, issued Monday night, is completely separate from prior decisions that will boost monthly bills as of Wednesday. Those big increases bring the average monthly bill for gas and electricity to $165.10 a month for residential customers. That’s 13.6 percent more than the $145.36 a month for combined gas and electricity that PG&E customers were paying last July 31.
The chilly and rainy winter that largely banished the drought also ushered in spikes for monthly gas bills.
Consumer groups warn that when summer arrives, customers who live in the hottest regions of northern and central California, such as Santa Clara County, the eastern sections of the East Bay, and Solano and Napa counties, could be jolted by mammoth increases in electricity bills.
“As bad as the winter bills have been, people are going to get an even bigger shock this summer, especially if they live in places that require air conditioners,” said Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, a consumer group.
San Francisco-based PG&E said it’s reviewing the judge’s decision.
“We are absolutely focused on investing in infrastructure and technology that will provide our customers with a safe and reliable energy system that supports California’s clean energy goals while keeping bills as low as possible,” PG&E spokesman Donald Cutler said.