EL DORADO COUNTY - The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) made a 5-0 vote to approve the Alternate Proposed Decision that will increase PG&E customer rates by about 12.8%.
The CPUC said the vote, which was delayed earlier this month, was not an easy decision and its biggest rate case ever.
What does the change mean for PG&E customer bills?
Residential non-CARE monthly combined gas and electric bills will increase by about $32.50 in 2024, $4.50 in 2025 and decrease by almost $8.00 in 2026.
For a typical residential CARE customer, the monthly combined gas and electric bill will increase by about $21.50 in 2024, $3 in 2025 and decrease by $5.50 in 2026.
PG&E will be using the dollars to underground 1,230 miles of powerlines plus put covered conductors on another 778 miles.
"I don't feel like us as consumers should flip the bill for them not maintaining their lines over the course of all these years," said Cheyenne Sherman, who owns Coffee and Crumbs in Cool.
The utility said that undergrounding lines reduces fire risk by 98%, versus insulating them reduces the risk by 65%.
"Two months ago, my PG&E bill was $2,700 for one month and it's a 1,600 square foot," said Sherman.
Sherman is concerned since she relies on PG&E to keep things running at her small business.
"We have freezers, we have convention ovens, we have proofers, we have espresso machines, we have refrigerated deli cases," said Sherman.
PG&E spokesperson Lynsey Paulo said the CPUC did not fully fund their proposal, but they are dedicated to making their infrastructure more fire resilient.
"We have a number of programs that can help customers manage their energy use and their bills," said Paulo.
"This is at a time where customers are already struggling to pay their utility bills," said Katy Morsony with The Utility Reform Network (TURN) that advocates for ratepayers.
TURN had supported the cheaper option that would have done less undergrounding and more insulating of lines.
Morsony said this is not the only rate increase PG&E customers will see over the next three years. Paulo agreed and said that rates could continue to increase on top of this hike.
"There are also rate cases at the CPUC and our regulator," said Paulo. "Those decisions could also potentially impact rates in the next few years."
For homeowners and small businesses just trying to get by, higher gas and electric bills could be a breaking point.
"We have people going out of business," said Sherman. "I can't buy this for my kids because my PG&E bill is going to be $500 or $600 more this month, even though we haven't done anything different."
CBS 13 asked PG&E if any of the customer dollars will go towards paying back wildfire survivors through the Fire Victim Trust Fund, and Paulo said no. All the dollars from the increase are for wildfire mitigation plans like undergrounding lines.
"That money for fire victims did not come out of customer rates at all," Paulo told CBS 13.
The increase approved by the CPUC will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
- El Dorado County
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