A Surprise Rate Hike Request Shocks California on the Eve of 2024. In a bold play, Pacific Gas & Electric, the reviled utility giant in California, chose the final business day of 2023 to make a stunning move. The company submitted a last-minute request to state regulators, requesting a significant 13% rate increase for its customers in 2024. Should the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) greenlight this proposal, PG&E customers could see their electricity bills skyrocket by an extra $34.50 monthly—over $400 annually. This latest development in PG&E’s strategy is just another step in its ongoing quest to increase profits. This is in light, specifically, of its recent successful increase in November, when the CPUC approved a similar substantial rate hike that added an average of $32.50 to utility bills.

What’s astonishing is the seemingly lack of limits on how often or how much PG&E can request rate hikes. This leaves PG&E’s 16 million captive customers facing some of the steepest utility bills in the country, with no relief in sight. Critics like Ken Cook, EWG President and Marin County resident, are vocal about PG&E’s exploitation of the CPUC’s lenient rate approval process. The company seems to have a clear path with the commission, which is often criticized for being too accommodating to PG&E’s demands. Cook expressed his frustration: “PG&E’s path through the CPUC has been one long, unending boulevard of green lights. The unscrupulous monopoly will use every opportunity to fleece its captive ratepayers, and the unelected members of the commission consistently and dutifully comply.”

Throughout 2023, PG&E has been advocating for multiple rate hikes, claiming they are essential for wildfire safety improvements and infrastructure upgrades, including new power lines. Their aggressive strategy isn’t just limited to electricity bills; they’ve also played a pivotal role in undermining California’s popular residential rooftop solar program. The state’s other two investor-owned utilities supported their efforts.

The CPUC’s decision to roll back financial incentives for solar energy didn’t just increase electricity bills; it dealt a massive blow to the state’s thriving solar industry, resulting in over 17,000 job losses, with more expected in 2024. Amidst all this, PG&E had a brush with becoming a publicly owned utility following its $30 billion liability for causing deadly wildfires, including the 2018 Camp Fire. Despite being convicted of 84 counts of manslaughter and declaring bankruptcy in 2019, PG&E has seen financial rewards, primarily through CPUC-approved rate hikes.
In stark contrast to the plight of its ratepayers and the solar industry workforce, PG&E’s shareholders have a reason to celebrate: the company is reinstating its quarterly dividend, promising payouts starting this January. We’re Here to Help. We understand that these developments can be overwhelming and financially straining. Remember, you’re not alone in this. Our team is dedicated to providing support and guidance during these challenging times. Whether it’s exploring alternative energy options, understanding your rights as a consumer, or simply needing someone to talk to about these changes, we’re here for you. Together, we can navigate these turbulent waters. Reach out to us—let’s work towards a brighter, more sustainable future.