Public hearings scheduled for next week will allow Bakersfield-area residents a chance to offer input on Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s request to substantially raise the rates paid by its 16 million customers in Central and Northern California.

The investor-owned utility based in San Francisco has asked the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to raise its revenue next year by $1.06 billion, or 12.4 percent, in order to pay for precautionary measures designed to reduce wildfire risks, among other expenses.

PG&E also wants to boost its 2021 revenues by another $454 million, or 4.7 percent, and then increase them again in 2022 by $486 million, or 4.8 percent.

Opponents are already trying to make the case such increases are unjustified. But if PG&E does receive permission to proceed as requested, bills paid by its average customer will go from $165.94 per month to $176.50, an increase of $10.57, or 6.4 percent.

The company's formal request to the CPUC is part of a routine, highly regulated process PG&E goes through every three years. Near the end of 2019, an administrative law judge with the agency is expected to make a recommendation to the commission on what size revenue increase seems appropriate.

The CPUC's Public Advocates Office has suggested an alternative plan that would allow PG&E to raise its revenues much more modestly next year — $503 million instead of the requested $1.06 billion — and then impose another $298 million increase in 2021, followed by an additional $329 million in 2022.

Bottom line: Cal Advocates, as the office calls itself, is calling for a cumulative, three-year revenue hike of $2.44 billion, which is a little more than half the $4.57 billion PG&E is requesting.

Cal Advocates has offered a highly technical, almost line-by-line explanation of why it thinks PG&E can get by safely with less money than the company is asking for. The details of its case can be found online at https://www.publicadvocates.cpuc.ca.gov/general.aspx?id=4187

Another organization advocating on behalf of PG&E's customers, The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, bluntly denounced the utility's revenue request.

TURN spokeswoman Mindy Spatt said Tuesday the company should provide a full accounting of the money it has already spent doing tree-trimming and other steps that appear to have failed to prevent the wildfires that have prompted PG&E to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. She also questioned executive pay levels and other expenses she called "corporate excesses."

"Higher rates don't make PG&E safer. Accountability does," Spatt said.

In a news release about the public hearings in Bakersfield and elsewhere, the CPUC said it will scrutinize PG&E's activities to make sure the company gets the money it needs to provide safe and reliable service to customers and allow the utility to maintain and replace aging gas and electric infrastructure — "but at a reasonable cost to its ratepayers."

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf. Sign up at Bakersfield.com for free newsletters about local business.

(8) comments

tacojc69

Why are citizens forced to pay forbysiness'mistske?



Just like demo rats raising the minimum wage without any concern, what so ever, about business's raising prices to off set the increased labor costs.



Stop voting "dummies" I to office!

2carpoor

Is there a reason payments to shareholders don't go down instead of raising rates for customers? I know the corporate office in San Francisco is allergic to protest so the customers in the Bay area have traditionally been lower than the tiers paid in the Central Valley. Cheeky!

Fightingsideofme

We pay more for everything in California, vote republican !

clsoca

I never understood why Bakersfield pays the highest electric rates in the state. Shouldn't the rates be the same per kilowatt throughout the state.

REMUDA

We should get a state-enforced RATE CUT (and their pensions as well), since we're slave to one of the most incompetent power company managers. We shouldn't pay for their mistakes and poor planning, especially now with the bankrupt and lawsuit arenas.

Wanna bet there are more suits to come . . . on individuals (in PG&E)who pay their own counsel?

Needs new owners (COOP anyone?).

lrlopez74

These are show hearings. LIke BakoGuy805 said, PG&E has already made the decison. They're just having hearings for sh-ts and gigles to let people THINK they have a voice. PG&E is making CUSTOMERS pay for ITS OWN negligence in the recent Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Don't just attend the hearings. SHUT THE HEARINGS DOWN AND DEMAND THE FINES PG&E ARE PAYING AREN'T PASSED ALONG TO THE CUSTOMER.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Too late- AB1054 signed by Gavin Newsom in July, calls for half of the funding for the Wildfire Liability fund ($21,000,000,000), with half of that coming from utility customers through the extension of a charge on their bills that would have otherwise expired...

BakoGuy805

That price hike will happen with or without a hearing. PG&E should do the customers a solid and tell their employees to leave company vehicles at the yard instead of showing them off at their expensive homes. Save on your end and leave the customers alone.

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