PG&E officials won approval from state regulators on Thursday to seek about $395 million from customers through rate increases this year, but rates will not go up until the beginning of 2012, a company spokeswoman said today.

As part of a settlement between PG&E and several advocacy groups, the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco approved PG&E to seek rate increases for this year, 2012 and 2013.

But rates will not increase this year because the utility giant’s revenues are already meeting the additional $395 million that was requested, PG&E spokeswoman Christine Cordner said.

With the adjusted increase, PG&E is seeking a total of $5.9 billion in customer rates this year, Cordner said.

Beginning in January 2012, PG&E will begin seeking an additional $180 million on top of the $395 million requested for 2011, bringing the total to just over $6 billion in total rates sought.

PG&E has been approved to charge another $185 million in rate increases in 2013, bringing the total to nearly $6.3 billion, according to Cordner.

The increases were part of a general rate case submitted by PG&E for CPUC approval every three years. The increases were approved as part of phase 1 of the rate case.

Phase 2 of the case will be heard on May 26, and will include commissioners deciding on a disputed proposal by PG&E to levy a $3 flat fee on all of its residential customers.

“We’ve proposed these changes because we want customers to pay closer to what it costs to serve them,” Cordner said.

In PG&E’s current payment scheme, residents who conserve energy or live in smaller dwellings are legally protected from the rate increases that are levied on customers nearly every year, she said.

In San Francisco, for example: if a person lives in a studio, one bedroom, or small house, they likely will not be charged more than 12 or 14 cents per kilowatt-hour even if rates increase, Cordner said.

“PG&E is legally bound from charging them more,” she said. “So the people who are incurring rate increases are essentially covering the cost of service for those customers who PG&E can’t charge.”

But if approved, the $3 flat fee would also apply to people who were potentially out of town or not using any energy at all.

“We’re very much opposed to that,” said Mindy Spatt, spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, a ratepayer advocacy group.

“That’s $3 we don’t think they should have,” she said.

Saul Sugarman, Bay City News

Want more news, sent to your inbox every day? Then how about subscribing to our email newsletter? Here’s why we think you should. Come on, give it a try.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!