PG&E customers will see their electric bills rise soon because of a rate increase that took effect Wednesday.

On average, households will see rates go up about 6 percent, but some homes will see larger increases, some smaller, and some will have no change.

Small business owners will see rates go up an average of 5.2 percent.

PG&E has a five-tier price structure that rewards people who use less electricity with lower bills and levies higher rates on heavy users. Power hogs, then, will have a bigger hike than those who conserve energy.

Operational costs, such as investments in infrastructure to serve new customers, are expected to rise next year, said Tom Bottorff, senior vice president of regulatory relations for PG&E.

If energy prices fall as much as the company thinks they will, that will offset those costs enough to hold rates steady next year, Bottorff said.

If not, rates could go up another 2.6 percent for both residential and commercial customers on Jan. 1.

Natural gas rates are adjusted monthly to reflect market changes, but electricity rates usually don’t change more than once or twice a year.

The California Public Utilities Commission allows for additional electric rate adjustments if the cost of purchasing power wholesale exceeds certain thresholds. Increased costs of natural gas and a decrease in hydroelectric production have driven electricity costs up by approximately $645 million, which triggered the third quarter hike. In a second commission filing made Wednesday, PG&E projected it will need another $281 million in additional revenue starting next year, which is why rates might go up again Jan. 1.

This latest rate increase is one more burden on families already stretched thin by rising gasoline and grocery prices and a financial market meltdown that has decimated college and retirement funds.

Andrea Grobel, 26, who lives in northeast Bakersfield, said she does not like it.

“I think it’s high enough already,” she said. “We just have a two-bedroom and I can’t believe how much I pay.”

Some are resigned to rising rates.

“No one wants to pay more but I’m not going to get all bent out of shape about it,” said resident Ron Anderson, 41. “I can’t do anything about it. It’s not going to do any good to be mad about it so I will reluctantly pay it.”

Things could have been worse, Bottorff said.

“Relative to what it could have been, I think there’s some relief” that it’s only 6 percent, he said.

The Gulf Coast hurricanes didn’t have the impact on energy prices that some industry observers were bracing for. And next winter probably won’t be as harsh as this winter, when temperatures were colder than usual, Bottorff said.

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