Residential Pacific Gas and Electric Company customers will see a 2.1 percent increase on their electric bills in March.
The rate increase is part of a statewide process to help ensure the price customers pay for energy is more closely aligned with the cost of providing them with safe, reliable and clean energy service, to simplify rate structures and to encourage energy conservation, according to PG&E.
The process to modernize and simplify California’s electric rate system aims to balance rate tiers and eventually move to a time-of-use rate structure. These changes were developed jointly between PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission and supported by many consumer interest groups.
Starting Wednesday, PG&E is reducing the number of tiers from three to two tiers, to simplify the rate structure and implementing a High Usage Surcharge to encourage energy conservation.
According to PG&E, even with these increases customers’ bills are still below the national average.
The utility company decided to change the rate structure for a number of reasons, one of which is the current electric rate structure was established during the 2001 energy crisis. It’s outdated, complex and confusing for customers.
For years, in order to encourage energy conservation and efficiency, the costs of PG&E’s service to maintain the energy grid and ensure reliable electricity service were disproportionately placed upon customers who found themselves in the higher tiers — most often impacting those who live in hotter climates.
The electric rate structure resulted in an imbalance between how customers in the lower and higher tiers pay for what it costs to provide them with service.
The changes may help those who find themselves in higher tiers due to the need to cool their homes during hotter months. After the changes are implemented, customers who need to use more energy may see lower bills, while customers who typically are able to use less energy may see higher bills.
These changes are designed to support California’s ambitious clean energy goals to combat climate change. Customers who use more than four times the baseline amount of electricity will receive a High Usage Surcharge. The baseline amount of electricity for each customer depends on their location, the season and their home heating system. Less than 10 percent of residential customers will likely incur the High Usage Surcharge as the surcharge only applies to customers on PG&E’s tiered electric rate plans and it is intended to encourage energy conservation among customers whose electricity use is significantly higher than typical households.
“We understand that any change to the way our customers are accustomed to being charged for energy may cause some questions. We want all of our customers to know that we’re here to help them understand these changes and manage their energy costs. We offer new rate options as well as free programs and tools to help customers take control of their energy use and make smart choices,” said Deborah Affonsa, vice president of customer Service at PG&E.
The most powerful tool customers have at their disposal to take control of their energy use and manage their bills is their 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. To learn more and how to signup, customers can visit pge.com.
Automated PG&E Bill Forecast Alerts include other tools that help customers manage costs by notifying them when their usage is approaching their personal budget thresholds. These alerts are then delivered via email, text or a phone call. Sign up in less than five minutes at pge.com/energyalerts.
Customers can also sign up for the High Usage Alert to be notified when they may incur the High Usage Surcharge. Sign up today at pge.com/highusage.
PG&E also has a number of programs that help customers manage their costs. For more information about tools to manage energy costs and programs for low income and medical needs, please visit pge.com.