PG&E wildfire and catastrophe proposal may trigger higher bills

OAKLAND — Higher monthly bills might jolt PG&E customers due to the utility’s request that state regulators allow the company to collect more revenue for its spending linked to wildfires and catastrophes.

PG&E wants to recover costs that arose from its expenditures for the mitigation of wildfires and dealing with certain catastrophes, according to recent state and regulatory filings.

Oakland-based PG&E is attempting to recover $1.36 billion in costs, filings with the state Public Utilities Commission and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission show.

PG&E’s equipment has triggered a series of fatal and destructive wildfires in Northern California over the last several years. PG&E also caused a fatal gas explosion that killed eight and destroyed a San Bruno neighborhood in 2010.

“Our most important responsibility is the safety of our customers and hometowns,” PG&E spokesperson Mike Gazda said. “We also recognize our responsibility to keep energy bills as low as possible for our customers.”

Monthly bills for PG&E customers could jump over a period of three years, with the first increases starting during the second half of 2023, depending on the outcome and timing of the state PUC’s decision on PG&E’s most recent revenue request.

For the typical residential customer who receives both electricity and gas services from PG&E, monthly bills would increase by an average of $8.67 a month in the first year that the changes take effect, $1.57 a month in the second year and another 12 cents a month in the third year.

Customers will experience higher bills primarily due to increases in the electricity portion of the monthly charges, PG&E indicated.

That’s because the gas portion of the bill would be unchanged in the first year and third years that the changes go into effect. In the second year, the gas portion of the bill would increase by 8 cents a month.

No changes in monthly bills are expected to occur before mid-2023, PG&E said.

PG&E revealed several categories of spending for which the company aims to recover its costs:

  • complete wildfire risk mitigation activities
  • respond to government-declared catastrophic events to repair damaged facilities, restore utility services, and protect the utility’s employees and customers
  • implement various customer-focused initiatives

The utility hopes the state PUC will rule on the request by the end of 2023, although it’s possible a decision could occur earlier.

At present, the typical PG&E residential customer pays an average of $233.67 a month for combined electricity and gas services, $167.23 a month for electricity service and $66.44 a month for gas service.

That means the current proposal could lead to monthly bills of $242.34 for combined electricity and gas services in the first of the three years, $243.91 in the second year and $244.03 in the third year.

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