SANTA MARIA, Calif. - PG&E customers will see an increase in their electric bills after the utility received approval for a rate hike on March 1.
"Average electric rates will slightly increase by 1.8 percent", said a PG&E spokesperson in a prepared statement, "for residential customers, this increase will be largely or entirely offset by a higher California Climate Credit (CCC) for 2018, part of the state’s overall effort to fight climate change."
"The credit increases from approximately $35 in 2017 to approximately $79 in 2018. Customers will see this credit split between their April and October bills", the PG&E spokesperson adds, "the net effect of these changes could mean modest decreases or increases to residential customer bills depending on electric use."
PG&E residential customers we spoke with say its getting costlier to turn on the lights at home.
"It's something I pay attention to", said customer Virginia Igo, "I'm retired and I'm on a fixed income, so every little increase can make a big difference."
"It's just like anything else, you just roll with it", said customer Bobby Duran, "just like our gas prices, it just seems like that's California for you, everything seems to be going up and up."
A glance ar the average PG&E bill shows customers are paying more for electricity, nearly 19 percent more since 2015.
"Kind of got us over a barrel", said customer Kent Hill, "I have noticed it's increased, every time I look at my bill I wonder who's using my electricity?"
Consumer watchdog group The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, says its not about individual, slight rate increases but the cumulative effect they have for PG&E ratepayers.
"You really cannot participate in life without these services so we cannot just sort of leave it to the free market to set the rates", said TURN spokesperson Mindy Spatt, "we need oversight, we need the Public Utilities Commission to make sure the rates are just and reasonable and they're not basically pricing people out of heat or light."
PG&E says rates for average commercial customers will increase by approximately 3.8 percent, while average agricultural rates will increase by 2.8 percent.
The power company says the rate change is being driven primarily by higher transmission rates and a lower forecast load for 2018.
PG&E says these are ways to control energy use:
Online Account - Customers should signup to access cost and usage analysis tools with information down to the day, get personalized information on the right rate plan for themselves and their family, and more. Customers are encouraged to learn more and sign up for an online account at www.pge.com.
Bill Forecast Alerts – Automated PG&E Bill Forecast Alerts help customers manage costs by notifying them when their usage is approaching their personal budget thresholds. These alerts are sent via email, text or a phone call. Sign up in less than five minutes at www.pge.com/energyalerts
High Usage Alerts - Customers also can sign up for the High Usage Alert to be notified when they may incur the High Usage Surcharge. www.pge.com/highusage
Home Energy Checkup – The Home Energy Checkup is a fast and easy way to audit home energy usage. The results enable customers to make customized changes to enhance their home's energy efficiency, along with estimates of how much money can be saved. www.pge.com/home-energy-checkup
Budget Billing – This program averages customers’ monthly energy costs across the last 12 months to help monthly payment amounts remain more consistent, even if energy use changes significantly from season to season. www.pge.com/budgetbilling
Electric Rate Plan Comparison Tool – Compare rate plan options at www.pge.com/learnaboutrates.