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New PG&E rate hike approved by CPUC

The Public Utilities Commission approved a PG&E rate hike Thursday that will add about $5 a month to the average bill and it could begin as soon as next month.

Before the approval, the panel heard from a string of ratepayers and critics – some chanting “Stop the Rate Hikes!” – complaining about the hike.

The commission approved the hike unanimously without comment. A new board member, who until recently headed the consumer watchdog arm of the CPUC, recused himself from voting.

“It’s small, but there is a whole line up of small increases on the table,” said Mark Toney, executive director of the TURN ratepayer group.

The newly approved hike is to expected to compensate for PG&E’s previous vegetation management efforts dating back to 2020. The spending was part of PG&E’s efforts to limit the risk of wildfires after a string of disastrous blazes that started in 2017 and ultimately led to the utility filing bankruptcy.

There is another rate hike in the works. In that case the utility wants to charge $10 more per month, on average, to pay for PG&E’s repairs related to storm damage last year.

The hike approved Thursday comes on the heels of a 13 percent increase in January. That hike raised the average bill about $34 a month. That increase was to pay for PG&E’s ongoing efforts to underground power lines in high fire risk areas.

PG&E has said it expects total rate hikes in 2024 will total about $50 more per average customer.

PG&E says that nearly all the more than $2 billion in 2023 earnings was reinvested. It paid shareholders $21 million directly in dividends.

PG&E released the following statement on Thursday:

“The Wildfire Gas and Safety Cost Interim Rate Relief decision authorizes a temporary rate change to start recouping a portion of the money that was spent for wildfire mitigation and delivering key safety, compliance and modernization investments for our energy system. These costs were not included in prior rates proceedings, and we have requested to recover these costs over multiple years to limit the impact on customers. Interim rate relief helps lower costs for customers in the long term. Delaying the recovery of costs could negatively impact our ability to secure competitive finance rates and increase the costs for capital investments. The relief also helps to more appropriately allocate costs to those who were customers when the costs were incurred.

PG&E is focused every day on delivering a safe, reliable, climate-resilient and clean energy system at the lowest possible cost. Our system has never been safer, and we continue to make it safer every day. We are working to keep customer bill increases between an average of 2 to 4% a year.”

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