Meeting to be held on Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s rate plan

The state Public Utilities Commission will hold a hearing Tuesday in San Luis Obispo to take public comment on a proposal by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to raise its rates.

The hearing is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in the Meadow Park Building, 2333 Meadow St. An administrative law judge with the agency will preside over the hearing, which is the last in a series of public meetings the agency is holding throughout PG&E’s service area.

PG&E is proposing to raise its gas and electricity rates 6.7 percent in 2011 in order to raise an additional $1.1 billion. Over the three years covered by the request, the increase would generate $4.2 billion in new revenue.

The utility says it needs the increase in order to cover costs associated with replacing aged distribution infrastructure. “It’s reaching the end of its useful life,” said David Eisenhauer, PG&E spokesman.

It is unclear how much a typical PG&E customer’s bill would increase because the utility expects to purchase electricity at lower rates next year, bringing the overall increase down to 1 percent.

According to PG&E’s rate increase application, if those savings do not materialize, a typical customer’s monthly bill would go up by $2.34 per month for electricity and $3.15 per month for gas. (PG&E does not provide natural gas service in San Luis Obispo County.)

Consumer advocacy groups are critical of the increase and are encouraging PG&E customers to protest it at the hearing. The Utility Reform Network says that ratepayers cannot afford an increase given the state’s high unemployment rate and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.