By Susie Steimle

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Changes are coming to your PG&E bill. The utility is rolling out a new pricing structure and it could cost you more every month.

150,000 customers have been notified that they are a test group for this new pay structure, known as “time of use” payments.

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Opponents call it “punishment pricing” and want you to know you can opt out.

If you’re a PG&E customer, make sure you’re watching your mailbox — rate changes rolled out this week.

PG&E spokesperson Matt Nauman said, “We sent a letter to 150,000 customers, it’s a 90-day notice to make them aware that we’re transitioning them to this rate.”

PG&E officially launched its new ‘time of use’ rates, with rates that will increase during peak hours of 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“The state’s plan is to move all customers to a time of use plan eventually,” Nauman said.

He says this directive comes from the state legislature. The objective is to encourage consumers to reduce energy use during peak hours when it’s most expensive.

He says in return, your rates will be lower during the other 19 hours of the day. PG&E is encouraging small changes.

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“Not running your washing machine or dishwasher until after 9 p.m.” Nauman said.

Mark Toney, the executive director of The Utility Reform Network (TURN) said, “It’s just not right to punish people for cooking dinner.”

TURN is a consumer watchdog group agency that shares PG&E’s goal of reducing electrical use during peak hours, but says signing people up for a new program without their consent, is the wrong way to do it.

“We would much rather have a time of use system where people are recruited to do this affirmatively instead of automatically being signed up whether they ask for it or not,” Toney said.

He wants PG&E consumers to know they can opt out, and if you don’t like this plan — tell the people who have the power to change it.

“If their bills are going sky high because of these time of use rates, this punishment pricing, you’ve got to let your legislators know this,” Toney said.

If you decide to opt out, you need to communicate to PG&E that you’d like to keep your same payment plan.

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For the first year of time of use payments, if your bill is higher than your previous rate, PG&E will refund the difference.