PG&E utility bills are about to soar in California. Here are the details

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is poised to hit customers with a major hike to monthly bills in January, an increase that comes amid an unprecedented rise in utility rates for Californians over the last decade. 

In the last eight years, average monthly residential bills for electricity and gas combined jumped by $86.51 — from $154.52 in January 2016 to $241.03 in January 2023, according to data from PG&E obtained by the Chronicle. 

And average bills are about to rise even further — by $25-$31 in January — depending on how state regulators vote Thursday. 

Residential rates for electricity in California have far outpaced the rate of inflation as electricity prices have risen to be more than twice the national average in the last 10 years. In its latest quarterly report, the Public Advocates Office at the California Public Utilities Commission said rates rose about 92% for residential customers between January 2014 and September 2023.

“It just keeps going up,” said Jerrie Groves, a 33-year-old single mother in Bakersfield who said her PG&E electricity bill averages about $500 each month. “It is the biggest stress and the highest bill I have.” (Bakersfield is close to the southernmost point of PG&E’s service territory.)

Utility bills are becoming a greater burden for PG&E customers like Groves, who works at a Costco food court and has four children ages 9-14. Groves said she has tried to minimize her family’s electricity use, but with four children, it’s a challenge. 

“It doesn’t seem to matter what I try to do, like not run the AC — it’s still super high,” Groves said. 

Historically, utility rates generally kept pace with inflation, but that began to shift in 2013, according to the CPUC. And catastrophic wildfires have driven costs even higher for PG&E and its customers since 2021. 

PG&E is allowed to recoup certain costs for operating expenses and capital expenditures from its customers, including key wildfire response and prevention projects. So far, some of the biggest wildfire-related expenses passed on to customers have been tree-trimming programs and wildfire liability insurance coverage, according to the CPUC.

PG&E has slashed its vegetation management program as part of the company’s effort to curb costs. But with its new budget, PG&E is preparing to spend billions of dollars to strengthen thousands of miles of power lines in regions where the risk of wildfires is high by either burying power lines or insulating bare wires. 

State regulators Thursday will decide how much PG&E can spend on these programs and others. 

PG&E spokesperson Lynsey Paulo said the big bump in rates in 2024 should be an anomaly, and PG&E expects to keep future rate increases “at or below” the rate of inflation. The company is trying to reduce costs wherever possible — for example, in 2022, the company cut operating costs by 3%, she said.

“We understand the impact of any rate increase on our customers, and we are committed to completing critical safety and reliability work as cost-efficiently as possible,” Paulo said. 

Some California lawmakers worry the rising cost of electricity in California is undermining the state’s effort to phase out natural gas by encouraging greater reliance on electric vehicles and appliances. 

State Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, said he and others in Sacramento are discussing how the state might intervene to lessen the amount utility customers pay for statewide programs, like transmission line construction and utility subsidies for low-income households. Some money could come from the state’s general fund, for example, or from a bond.

“Proportionally, a small part of our rates is actually distributing and moving energy around — a lot of it is wildfire costs,” said Becker, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee’s Subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection and Energy.

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CA electricity costs much more than other states

Photo courtesy of lydiashiningbrightly, flickr

California’s rush to impose harsh government mandates cutting carbon dioxide emissions in the generation of electricity is raising the electricity bills of families and businesses across the state. Poor families are suffering the most.

In sharp contrast, Texas is successfully taking a free-market approach that is increasing the use of clean renewable energy and lowering electricity bills in the state.

The tale of two states offers a lesson for the nation.

The far-left Democrats who control state government in California have doubled down on their extremist campaign to cut carbon dioxide emissions – regardless of the cost and the pain they inflict on Californians, who are already struggling to pay some of the highest electricity bills in the nation.

California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown said in September: “De-carbonizing the economy when the economy depends so totally on carbon is not child’s play. It’s quite daunting.”

“Daunting” is an understatement. After decades of severe state mandates and skyrocketing subsidies for renewable energy, Brown boasted that California gets about 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources – with a goal of 50 percent in seven years.

That may sound impressive, but Brown’s numbers referred only to electricity generation. He didn’t count transportation – the cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, trains and planes that carry millions of Californians every day. Transportation accounts for about 39 percent of the Golden State’s energy consumption – and is almost all powered by carbon-based gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

In 2004, at the dawn of California’s accelerated push into “de-carbonizing,” 10 percent of the state’s power came from approved renewable sources, with the total rising to 25 percent when electricity from large hydroelectric dams was included.

By 2016, California’s electric grid derived 25 percent of its power from renewable energy sources, with another 10 percent coming from large hydroelectric dams. While the dams also generate renewable electricity, they are loathed by environmentalists, so they don’t count towards California’s non-carbon energy goals.

Pushing California’s electric portfolio from 25 percent renewables, including hydroelectric dams above 50 megawatts, to 35 percent over a dozen years is a direct consequence of several laws and regulations intended to increase mostly wind and solar power generation. …

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DWP Rate Hike Plan Makes Customers Mad as Hell

Today I’m opening the mailbag to share comments from Valley residents about the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and its proposed five-year rate hike of 25-30 percent:

“The DWP needs to tighten their belts before they ask us for more money.”

“Cutbacks on the least important actions or redundancies should come first before asking for more money. That is how any true business would work.”

“The 8 percent of its gross revenues going to L.A. city treasury boggles the mind.”

“I find this so offensive. … It feels as though DWP is punishing me by increasing the rates because I am using less water. Why can’t the DWP employees take a 5 or 10 percent pay decrease in their salaries or be furloughed for 1 day per 2 week schedule, or maybe lay off a few employees — at least until the drought is over. This is not the time for DWP or the City Council or unions to be greedy at the expense of consumers/constituents.”

“We just celebrated our 50th anniversary and have lived in our Porter Ranch home for over 41 years. Our home is one-story, under 1,500 square feet, no pool and a now-brown lawn because of the drought. We try to avoid using the air conditioning or leave it at no lower than 78 degrees — sometimes 80. However, our DWP bills range from $350 to $400 in the winter to over $850 in the summer. We simply cannot afford those bills now and would be devastated if they were to go even higher. We don’t want to have to choose between turning off the air conditioner to afford our mortgage and medical bills or losing our home where we raised our family.”

“Prior to the installation of the 2nd meter, my domestic water usage was calculated and averaged more than 5 times my true usage. I’m certain that anyone who has not installed a 2nd meter is being inaccurately (almost fraudulently) charged more than 5 times what they are responsible for.”

“It seems like the DWP pays a far greater salary than the private sector and gets better retirement benefits, too. Something is wrong here.”

“The DWP should be run like a corporation, not a cozy club.”

“The DWP should be replaced with a new organization that places great value on keeping spending tight, watching everyone’s overtime, and eliminate waste and fraud. So far, the DWP has proven that it lacks leadership that responds to ratepayers, yet has policies that empower the employees.”

“Roll back all senior level DWP management salaries 10%. Appoint an independent auditing committee to oversee exactly what some of these positions are within the DWP structure and do away with the vast majority of them.”

“For the past four years, I have taken many measures in cutting back on my water usage but I continue to have extremely high bills. I have called DWP 3 times asking for an inspection and have been told that they don’t have time.”

“The DWP replaced our water meter, and the next bill was for $3,277.93!”

“NO matter what the citizens are doing to ‘save the planet,’ the more we do, the more we are punished for our complying with the requests.”

“That there is about $230 million of overcharging being sent to the City is a travesty. Of course, we get to pay a 10% City tax on that overcharging, so it is only compounded. Our DWP should not be a taxing authority!”

“I have been so upset with the excessive spending and loss of funds that have happened with the DWP, and now for them to have the nerve to say they must raise our bills. Why can’t they eliminate some of their unnecessary “management analysts” or reduce some of their outlandish salaries?”

“Giving money to the city of Los Angeles is outrageous … how did this happen??”

“We have lost two pine trees because of not watering in this drought. No rewards for conservation! Higher ‘taxes’ instead. Private business would tighten belt, but our government is increasing salaries!”

“The accumulated effects of continued cost increases and tax hikes are forcing me to leave the state.”

“In my opinion, DWP is nothing but a bloated, redundant, multilayered bureaucracy with little accountability.”

“I am sick & tired of additional fees, taxes, costs, gouging, etc.”

“Could you interview the DWP ‘Ratepayer Advocate,’ Fred Pickel? The public would like to know what he has been doing.”

Email your comments to me at the address below — everyone’s voice should be heard.

Susan Shelley is a San Fernando Valley author, a former television associate producer and twice a Republican candidate for the California Assembly. Reach her at Susan@SusanShelley.com, or follow her on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

Report: EPA Regulations To Raise Power Costs 37 Percent By 2020

Electricity prices are already increasing at record levels and Environmental Protection Agency rules will only force power prices up even higher as the agency finalizes a slew of regulations aimed at the power sector.

A report by Energy Ventures Analysis found that the EPA underestimates how much its power plant regulatory regime will raise electricity and natural gas prices by imposing new regulations on power plants, most recently being the agency’s rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants.

These new rules to tackle global warming, combined with other rules to reduce more traditional air pollutants, will dramatically increase Americans’ utility bills by 2020, according to EVA’s report which was sponsored by the coal company Peabody Energy.

“Annual power and gas costs for residential, commercial and industrial customers in America would be $284 billion higher ($173 billion in real terms) in 2020 compared to 2012—a 60% (37%) increase,” the EVA report found.

The EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from existing power plants aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The EPA says its plan will result in “approximately 46 to 49 GW of additional coal-fired generation” being “removed from operation by 2020.”

On top of this the “decrease in coal-fired power will also cause natural gas prices to rise up to 11.5 percent as an additional 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is used to make up for the lack of coal power in 2020,” EPA said. “Average retail electricity prices are projected to increase in the contiguous U.S. by 5.9% to 6.5% in 2020.”

The Energy Information Administration estimates that 50 gigawatts of coal-fired power are slated to shutdown by 2020, mainly because of an EPA rule targeting mercury emissions. This means that the Clean Power Plan could nearly double the amount of coal-fired capacity being retired by 2020.

Retiring coal-fired generators and using more natural gas-fired power and green energy comes at a cost, however, as new energy infrastructure must be built to accommodate the shift and gas prices rise as demand increases.

“The cost of electricity and natural gas will be impacted in large part due to an almost 135% increase in the wholesale price of natural gas (100% in real dollars), from $2.82/mmbtu in 2012 to approximately $6.60/mmbtu ($5.63) in 2020,” EVa reports. “These increases are due to baseline market and policy impacts between 2012 and 2020 as well as significantly increased pressure on gas prices resulting from recent EPA regulations on the power sector and the proposed [Clean Power Plan].”

U.S. industry would be hit the hardest, seeing their electricity and gas costs soar 64 percent by 2020 over 2012 costs. EVA notes that skyrocketing “operational costs in the industrial sector are of particular concern for energy intensive industries in the U.S. such as aluminum, steel and chemicals manufacturing, which require low energy prices to compete.”

“Industrial power consumers would be expected to pass energy cost increases on to their customers, affecting the costs of goods purchased by American consumers over and above increased monthly utility bills,” EVA reports.

“The EPA’s collection of regulations will force American families, businesses and manufacturers to shoulder the burden it stands to create,” said Chad Kolton, spokesman for the Partnership for a Better Energy Future — which opposes the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

“Today’s report from EVA is consistent with what industry has been saying for months — the EPA’s regulatory agenda will do significant damage to the American economy,” Kolton said.

Environmental groups, however, have said the Clean Power Plan — and pretty much all major EPA rules in the last six years — are necessary to protecting public health and the environment. Activists have spent a large amount of energy, in particular, protecting the Clean Power Plan which they see as the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate agenda.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently published a report saying the Clean Power Plan will actually save Americans money while fighting global warming. NRDC argues, in contrast to EVA, that EPA’s plan overestimates the compliance costs of cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

“It’s clear that EPA has ample room to significantly strengthen the Clean Power Plan, making deeper cuts to dangerous carbon pollution from power plants at a reasonable cost,” said Starla Yeh, the report’s co-author and NRDC policy analyst.

“It can do so relying more on energy efficiency and clean energy—such as wind and solar energy—which can help slash America’s biggest source of heat-trapping pollution.,” Yeh said.

NRDC’s report argues that EPA overestimated the cost of increasing energy efficiency in the power sector by double what current projections are and overestimated the cost of green energy use by 50 percent.

Taking these factors into account, NRDC argues the Clean Power Plan will save Americans between $6.4 billion and $9.4 billion from energy efficiency by 2030 — well above EPA projected savings of up to $8.8 billion by that year.

“In 2030, energy efficiency savings could total 140 terawatt-hours more than what EPA projected,”NRDC reports. “Renewable generation could be 171 terawatt-hours higher than EPA’s projections.  Collectively, that’s equivalent to the electricity used by 29 million homes in one year—roughly the population of the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas together.”

This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.