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. Their efforts were backed by the state’s two other investor-owned utilities.
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.