SAN FRANCISCO – Just days after Pacific Gas & Electric persuaded California regulators to back a calamitous plan that will tank the state’s popular rooftop solar program, the reviled utility is asking the same officials to let it “recover” $1.36 billion from ratepayers for costs associated with deadly wildfires cause by PG&E.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that PG&E is pushing the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, to rubber-stamp its request to increase the monthly electricity bills of its 16 million captive customers over a three-year period, beginning in mid-2023. Charging ratepayers more will help the utility recover the wildfire costs, it says.
The average PG&E ratepayer pays $234 a month and will see that bill rise to more than $244 if regulators approve the latest rate hike, the report says. PG&E customers already pay some of the highest electricity bills in the nation.
“‘Recover’ is commonly defined as regaining something that was lost, stolen or otherwise taken from you, which is exactly how PG&E views the bank accounts of its captive ratepayers,” said EWG President and Bay Area resident Ken Cook.
“It’s beyond outrageous to force millions of families and small businesses, many of whom have been harmed by PG&E’s wildfires, to pay higher monthly energy bills to cover these costs – instead of the company’s investors,” said Cook.
It’s the latest in a string of outrageous PG&E actions that show the monopoly power company doesn’t care about wildfire costs, because it’s been successful in foisting them onto ratepayers. Its solar attack, accommodated by the recent CPUC decision, will worsen the climate crisis, itself a leading cause in the number and severity of California wildfires.
The cost recovery will further hurt working- and middle-class families already struggling with soaring electricity bills. And all of this is taking place while the utility is firing hundreds of contract workers, including many who help prevent wildfires.
Enabling this tumultuous track record is the CPUC, an “independent” group of regulators whose stated mission is ensuring Californians “have safe, reliable utility service at reasonable rates.” In direct opposition to that aim, the state government has simply greenlighted PG&E’s misguided plans, which hike rates and fail to make power more reliable.
In its hearing about solar fees, the utility essentially argued that rich households with rooftop solar were gaming the system by profiting from excess power sold back to the grid and passing the costs of solar on to working- and middle-class households. But the many benefits solar provides – system resiliency, reliability and affordability – were ignored. PG&E’s latest cost recovery request shows the real reason for excessively high rates in California.
Solar power has been shown to reduce ratepayer costs while also helping increase the stability of the electricity grid and fighting the climate crisis.
“And as we witnessed last week when the CPUC rubber-stamped PG&E’s plot to crush the state’s rooftop solar program, I have no doubt the same group of regulators will greenlight this latest assault on ratepayers,” said EWG’s 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.