PG&E’s Rate Restructuring Could Affect Your Bill

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Coming off a month when many of its customers complained about receiving some of their highest bills to date, PG&E is now changing the way it charges for electric.

PG&E is changing the structure by which it determines how much to charge customers based on their energy usage, transitioning from a three-tier system to a two-tier system -- a move that could significantly hike prices for Bay Area, Sierra, and foothills customers but will likely lower rates for Sacramento Valley customers.

When it gets colder in their home, Glenda Senner and her husband no longer turn the heat up. It's too expensive for them, and often times, they'd sooner leave their home altogether.

"You know Starbucks, or to a cafe, or to the movies just so we can be warm," said Senner.

Last month her bill from PG&E was $468. She's been tracking her utilities for years, and that was the highest she's ever paid.

"That was just astronomical to me. They said that was my usage, however, I have not changed the way I lived at all," said Senner.

"From December 2015 to December 2016 we had a 21 percent rate increase to our customers. That definitely affected customers bills in January," said Brandi Merlo, spokesperson for PG&E.

Customers, now, are divided into one of three tiers depending on how much energy they use.

The more you use, the higher your tier and your rate that you pay for kilowatt hour of energy.

Beginning March 1, the utility will transition from three tiers to two. The effect will be that customers who live in areas where it is hotter in the summer, and normally burn more energy to keep their air conditioners on for longer hours, will end up paying less. Likewise, people who use less energy in areas where summers are cooler, will end up seeing hikes in their rates.

"What's that's designed to do is to align costs better to customers for what it actually cost to serve the energy," said Merlo.

She says Bay Area customers will see an approximate 11 percent increase in their electric rates, while valley customers will see a likely 4 percent cut.

That all depends, however, on whether customers energy use reflects PG&E's expectation.