The high cost of their most recent gas and electric bills reported left some California residents unprepared and shocked. Multiple reports confirm that the rate hike negatively impacted millions of residents last month and has sparked quite a few reactions from those affected by the change.

The Utility Company Sent A Two-Month Advance Notice

The major utility company in question, Pacific Gas and Electric Co (also referred to as “PG&E”) issued an advance notice to its customers back in November. The announcement informed their customers that they would have to pay an additional $35 in 2024. However, the actual increase amounts would vary based on different factors – such as customer account, location, and usage amounts.

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The notice further confirmed that the increase, which would reportedly add up to an approximate annual increase of $400 per household, was already approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

How Some California Residents Have Reacted To The Change

There has been an overwhelming response to the price hikes from impacted California residents since the first bills of 2024 were sent out last month. For instance, one 90-year-old resident claimed that it almost felt like she was “getting punished” when she received her $696.64 bill.

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Rebecca Gallegos, a longtime resident of San Francisco, reported that she “was not prepared” and “blown away” when her bill amount increased the prior month by $162. There is a vast number of social media posts on various platforms from other affected customers with mostly negative responses and remarks as well.

The Response Of The CPUC To The Projected Rate Increases

Ever since the change went into effect last month, quite a few customers and other concerned individuals wondered how the CPUC would react to these approved changes. CPUC Commissioner John Reynolds issued a statement in which he acknowledged the awareness that “families are struggling.”

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Reynolds further emphasized their awareness that the state of California is facing an “affordability crisis” overall. However, according to Reynolds, “the infrastructure needs upgrades.” PG&E did not hesitate to inform customers that the infrastructure upgrades was a major reason for the price hike, but that has received even more backlash from customers and industry experts alike.

Other Reasons For The Announced Rate Hikes

PG&E informed its customers that the rate hike was necessary to cover the expenses associated with scheduled improvements that will be made to the local power lines. In addition, there will be additional gas pipeline safety measures implemented for added protection after all the damage caused by recent wildfire devastation.

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The General Rate Case (GRC) for 2023-2026 was approved by the CPUC on November 16, 2023. According to the PG&E website, the rate increase will assist with the funding of long-term wildfire risk reduction and electric capacity upgrades that will support new business connections. It will also assist with the climate resilience for the state in addition to achieving its standard clean energy goals.

How Other Agencies And Attorneys Reacted To The Change

It seems as if California residents are not the only ones that negatively responded to the gas and electric bill rate hikes. Quite a few agencies and even attorneys have referenced the conviction history associated with PG&E – including more than 90 felonies for disasters in San Bruno and Butte County that led to a substantial number of lives lost.

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Marc Noel, Deputy District Attorney of Butte County, said that PG&E has diverted money “for years” away from non-reliability metrics driven and safety “to maximize their payouts to their investors.” He views the price hikes as their way of saying “we need more money to take care of all these problems that we created, that we didn’t cure with the money that you gave us before.”

Former CPUC Official Speaks Out Against The Agency

Loretta Lynch, a former CPUC official, further claimed that the agency cannot be trusted to require PG&E to complete the safety work that it has promised to customers as part of the rate hike. According to Lynch, PG&E spends “wantonly, recklessly, and negligently” – spending habits which the CPUC “is allowing” to occur.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Gianluca Cogoli

Lynch further explained that the CPUC has tools available that they could use for prosecution against PG&E. However, the settlements created have allowed PG&E “not to admit any liability.” Lynch, who formerly ran the agency, admits that she has lost faith in the CPUC. She believes that the only individuals that can fix it are the state’s elected officials.

More Details About the Projected Price Increases 

According to PG&E, a projected increase of nearly 13% was scheduled for 2024. However, this is not where the increases will end – which may raise even more concerns for California residents impacted by the change.

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For instance, there is another projected increase to monthly bills of 1.6% for customers that will occur in 2025. However, the company reported that customers will be able to expect a decrease of 2.8% in 2026. Therefore, the average customer should expect an increase of approximately $32.50 in 2024, another increase of $4.50 in 2025 and then a nearly $8 reduction in 2026.

Assistance And Relief Options Available For Qualifying Customers

Lynsey Paulo, a spokesperson for PG&E reported to the San Francisco Chronicle that the major utility company is working hard with customers that struggle with affordability of their utility expenses.

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For instance, she explained that qualifying customers are eligible for a maximum reduction of $1,000 to their bills thanks to the Relief for Energy Assistance through Community Help (REACH) program. In addition, there are other resources available on the company’s website to assist customers with reducing their utility bills.

How Assembly Bill 205 Could Impact Future Bills For Customers

Assembly Bill 205, which passed last year, would essentially allow customers to be charged by the CPUC based on their annual income. This provision would allow customers in low-income households to save nearly $300 annually.

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On the other hand, households that earn over $180,000 would be required to pay an additional $500 each year to make up for the deficit on their own electricity bills. Multiple reports confirm that the deadline for the regulatory agency’s suggested changes to be approved is July 1, 2024. Even if the changes are approved, this does not mean that customers will see an immediate change to their bills.

Other States With High Electricity Rates

Many California residents may assume that their state is the only state with high electricity rates. However, multiple reports confirm that there are quite a few other states in the same bubble; some of which have had even higher rates in recent months.

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According to CNET, for instance, California averaged a rate of 29.31 cents per kWh in November 2023. However, Rhode Island and Hawaii exceeded that amount with their own customers with respective averages of 31.27 cents per kWh and 43.53 cents per kWh.