PG&E is seeking approval to begin reforming its system of residential electric rates to tie them more closely to actual costs. The proposal, if accepted by state regulators, would take effect in time to help many customers with high summer bills, according to the utility company.
Among other changes, PG&E’s proposal would lower the top two rates paid by customers by an average of about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, helping to reduce increases in monthly bills that typically arise during prolonged heat waves when customers need to run air conditioners long into the evening hours. The proposal would also reduce the number of different rate tiers that most residential customers now pay, depending on their level of usage, from four to three.
PG&E officials say the proposal would not affect the utility’s revenues or profits. Instead, it responds to widespread customer dissatisfaction with the rate system that developed as a result of state law passed during the 2001 California energy crisis. That system froze low-usage customers’ rates for several years while rates for high-usage customers rose to cover costs.