SAN FRANCISCO – Pacific Gas & Electric’s CEO Patricia Poppe received $51.2 million in compensation last year, more than 190 times what the utility’s average employee earns and a tone deaf windfall amid soaring energy bills ratepayers can’t afford.
Poppe’s compensation is almost double the amount paid out at nearly 40 other large investor-owned utilities over eight years, a Utility Dive analysis finds. Most of Poppe’s compensation came from $41.2 million in stock awards, a $6.6 million bonus and an annual salary of $1.3 million, the Bay Area News Group previously reported.
“This goes beyond run-of-the-mill executive greed, and it’s a stark example of rewarding failure. It shows a complete disdain for the employees and the company’s 16 million ratepayers, including the ones who are having to forgo necessities to keep the heat and lights on,” said EWG President and Bay Area resident Ken Cook.
The eye-popping payday is just the latest reminder that the “P” in PG&E should stand for “profit,” because its only priorities seem to be hiking power rates, padding its leadership’s bank accounts, and leeching money from California. In 2020, the utility sought more than $5 billion in bailouts from the state, with no benefits for customers.
That’s already enough to show why Poppe’s jackpot payday is so egregious, but it’s even more outrageous when compared to what PG&E pays its employees. And many of those workers are ratepayers who, like millions of Californians, are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their monthly energy bills, given the utility’s rate hikes.
The median annual salary for an employee at PG&E is $132,433. Poppe’s total compensation in 2021 of $51.2 million comes to $140,273 a day. The median household income for the Bay Area, according to the 2021 U.S. Census, is $119,136.
To uncover Poppe’s compensation, Utility Dive reporters analyzed annual records filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including CEO pay ratio data public companies are required to submit to the SEC through DEF-14As forms.
PG&E keeps pushing up rates
Poppe’s financial windfall comes as PG&E is jacking up rates on its captive customers, in part to pay for the damage caused by last summer’s disastrous Dixie Fire.
PG&E customers have already seen their monthly bills soar by nearly 20 percent this year. The utility is asking the California Public Utilities Commission to approve an 18 percent rate increase in 2023. If approved, the plan would impose an extra $31 on the average customer’s energy bill next year, and $58 per month by 2026.
A team of reporters with the local ABC affiliate in San Francisco analyzed recent U.S. Census data and found roughly one-fifth of Bay Area households are struggling to pay their PG&E utility bills, because rates have risen sharply over the past year.
- 14 percent were unable to pay their bills in full at least once in the past year.
- 20 percent had to reduce their basic necessities to pay electric bills.
- 18 percent kept their homes at unhealthy or unsafe temperatures.
Source: ABC Ch. 7 and U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey
Multimillionaire Poppe and PG&E want to punish rooftop solar customers
PG&E is also asking the commission to approve a hefty tax of more than $50 a month on the state’s popular rooftop solar program. The plan aims to crush the only competition facing PG&E and the other investor-owned utilities in the state, which allows solar customers to save money by selling back surplus electricity to the grid.
The plan, if approved, would put residential solar out of reach for millions of budget-conscious residents. But it would do nothing to decrease the already runaway power bills that Californians just can’t keep up with.
“Multimillionaires like Ms. Poppe who earn $140,000 a day can afford to install solar on their homes. But for working- and middle-class Californians, the incentives provided through the state’s current rooftop solar program, which the utility’s plan would kill, provide the only path forward to join the clean energy revolution,” said Cook.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.