SACRAMENTO -- Both PG&E and SMUD are considering significant increases to their customers’ monthly rates.
In the evenings at the Friesen home in Natomas, the stove is normally off, there are no lights on and the air conditioner only kicks on modestly.
"We don’t cook anymore between 5 and 8," said John Friesen. "We have meals that are easier to prepare, like a sandwich or something like that."
Friesen and his wife are on a fixed income and trying to save on their energy costs. Despite their efforts, John says it's not working.
"The reward that we get for it is increased rates and the sad part about it is they usually do it without letting the people know," he said.
Within the last year, John Friesen said his SMUD bills have increased about $20 a month. He claims he was told it was due to an infrastructure fee.
Now, SMUD is considering a more than 9% rate increase across the board in the next two years.
The utility says the increase will help pay for wildfire mitigation, the delivery of energy in peak demand times, a need to invest in renewable energy and new technology, including cybersecurity.
SMUD provided a detailed breakdown of what the increased rates pay for in 2020 and 2021:
Wildfire Mitigation 1.00/ 0.25%
Load Serving Capability 1.25% /0
Technology (investment and ongoing support) 1.75%/0.50%
Integrated Resource Plan 0.75%/1.00%
Cost Increases for Materials, Goods and Services* and Other – 0/2.75%
"It seems like they need to do a better job of explaining to the people on what they actually are doing with the money and what they are charging the fees for," John Friesen said.
In the meantime, PG&E is working through bankruptcy.
Monday, the utility asked state regulators for permission to raise rates on its customers. Coupled with the company's December request, that could total more than $22 a month passed onto consumers.
"They’re not gonna get it because I don’t believe they deserve it and I don’t think it was the right time to ask for it," said Gov. Gavin Newsom. "I think it was too much to ask for."
Newsom accused PG&E of seeking more profits to appease its Wall Street investors, while the utility still hasn’t settled claims for thousands of wildfire victims.
"It’s not only tone-deaf, it’s jaw-droppingly wrong," Newsom said.
For its part, PG&E sent FOX40 the following statement on its proposed hikes:
While this is neither the best nor preferred approach, it will help ensure the critical investments needed to harden our system against future wildfires. Without these investments, the risk will only continue to grow.
PG&E cannot raise rates unless the California Public Utilities Commission gives the utility permission. CPUC received PG&E's official request Monday.