Pacific Gas & Electric made its case to state regulators Wednesday for hiking rates to adjust for rising operating costs as well as reducing the risks of its operations.
The company is looking to raise rates by about 22%, saying that that accounts not just for inflation but also the high price of wholesale natural gas. On top of that, it wants the extra revenue for risk reduction.
One such project: placing 2,100 miles of power lines underground to reduce the threat of a wildfire being triggered by those lines in high risk areas.
“PG&E has evolved from reacting and responding to events,” said the company’s CEO Sumeet Singh, “and we are better than that now and you need us to be.”
The California Public Utilities Commission, which heard the arguments Wednesday, would need to approve a hike before it goes into effect.
“We need to invest in programs and tools to ensure that we can continue to support our evolving risk management practices, and now is not the time to stop investing in safety,” said Singh.
CPUC countered PG&E’s plan with a proposal that would only include a 12% increase.
Customer advocates say PG&E’s plan could amount to $50 more per month for the average bill. In comparison, the state’s counter-proposal would come out to around $28 more per month.
“That’s a lot of money to people,” said Kary Morsony, an attorney for The Utility Reform Network. “Customers in California are hurting. They have been for a while. Energy burdens have been growing.”
CPUC’s plan does approve some undergrounding, but would focus more on insulating power lines to prevent them from sparking a wildfire.
Critics of the plan say it is good that PG&E is focusing on safety, but that a 22% increase was just too much to ask for.
“It’s very easy to have grand ideas and make proclamations when you are spending someone else’s money,” said Kevin Johnson with the California Farm Bureau Federation. “For too long, ratepayers have been looked at as an endless piggy bank from both the state and utilities.”
The CPUC could make a decision at its next meeting, held on Nov. 2.
Source: NBC Bay Area