Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s announcement that it wants to increase energy rates by almost $1.2 billion was met with outrage by consumer watchdog organization The Utility Reform Network.
Pacific Gas has notified the California Public Utilities Commission that it plans to file a 1999 general rate case to raise natural gas rates by $506 million to maintain gas pipeline safety and reliability. It also plans to increase electric base level rates by $703 million beginning Jan. 1, 1999 to improve service reliability.
The Utility Reform Network believes the electric rate hike would prevent customers from reaping the full benefits of competition. "PG&E knows better than anyone that under the current rate freeze, all PG&E customers' rates are higher than they would be otherwise," said staff attorney Bob Finkelstein.
PG&E said the proposed rate change would not raise customers' electric bills. PG&E explained that restructuring legislation calls for a 10-percent rate cut on Jan. 1, 1998 for residential and small commercial customers, with rates frozen through a transition period ending by March 31, 2002. Under that electric rate freeze, an increase in base electric rates on Jan. 1, 1999 would merely reduce the revenues available to cover competition transition costs.
Customers' average monthly gas bills would increase by $10.33 to $48.22, if approved in full the company said.
Lori A. Burkhart is an associate legal editor with Public Utilities Fortnightly.