SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Many PG&E customers say their bills have doubled or even tripled recently.
The utility company is blaming weather and rate increases, but a utility watchdog group says there is more to the story.
One customer in Pleasanton saw her bill skyrocket to $2,500 last month. Another PG&E customer says her bill recently jumped from $20 to $90. Posts on social media are telling the same story.
The utility watchdog group, The Utility Reform Network (TURN), says a big chunk of the increase is going to pay for improvements to gas pipelines and storage.
Improvements, it says, customers shouldn’t have to pay.
Mark Toney, executive director of TURN, called the hike “absolutely outrageous.”
Toney said there are a couple of reasons for the price hike: three rate increases last year totaling about 21 percent. The colder, damper weather. And something else.
“The biggest part of the increase is the gas transportation…” Toney said.
Toney says two years ago, California state utility regulators approved an 83 percent increase for gas transmission and storage.
Something, that amounts to about half your monthly bill.
The cost, is being phased in over three years.
“The reason people didn’t notice it last year is because last year we had a mild winter, and the cost of the gas actually went down,” Toney said.
PG&E’s response is “we understand that higher than expected bills are frustrating.”
And so do some lawmakers.
California State Senator Jerry Hill said, “I am concerned when I hear that ratepayers are getting charged that much money and they’re using the same amount of gas — there’s something wrong.”
Hill promised to look into the hike.
But, Toney says, in the meantime, customers are getting burned.
“There is no doubt that these pipelines need to be repaired…we agree with that,” Toney said. “The question is: How much should the ratepayers pay, when the shareholders were the ones responsible?”
PG&E did not confirm the 83 percent increase, but it does confirm that more rate changes could be coming in 2017.
In the meantime, PG&E says people who think their bills are too high, should contact the utility and ask for a bill review.