Public Hearing Draws Opponents of PG&E Electric Rate Increases

Low-income Bay Area residents sounded off on a PG&E proposal to lower electric rates for the biggest electric consumers and raise rates for low-income customers.

At a public comment hearing by the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco today on the proposed rate hikes, many people said they had a hard time paying their electric bill already.

PG&E claims that the company does not stand to make a profit on the hikes but wants to implement them to create equity in the current system where electric rates per kilowatt-hour can vary from 13.2 cents to 36.4 cents.

In addition to adding a $10 per customer service charge, the new proposal would establish two tiers for electric rates, reducing the difference between the top and bottom tiers from 22.3 cents to 3.5 cents by 2018.

Reduced rates for low-income customers enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy program would be raised from 44 percent to 35 percent.

Kathleen Anderson, 70, of Monterey County, attended today’s public comment hearing in opposition to the proposed rate changes.

“All of my costs are going up,” she said, particularly housing and food. She said that the move could particularly impact seniors living on a fixed income.

San Francisco resident Charles Minster said he was not convinced that PG&E did not stand to profit on the rates restructuring.

“They’re looking to make money,” he said. “They’re out to make as much money as they can off our backs.”

PG&E, he said, was caught not maintaining underground gas lines adequately, leading to a devastating gas line explosion in San Bruno in 2010.

The CPUC recently handed down $1.4 billion in fines and penalties relating to the explosion that the utility is in the process of appealing. PG&E is also seeking to raise rates to recoup the costs of gas line infrastructure work in a separate proceeding.

The proposed electric rate hikes still must be recommended by an administrative law judge and approved by a vote of the CPUC.

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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