PG&E customers’ summer bills could drop a bit

The Associated Press
Thursday April 11, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. electric bills may drop a bit this summer after state power regulators voted to increase “baseline” allotments — the amount of electricity California households receive at the lowest electric rate. 

Tuesday’s decision by the Public Utilities Commission will have varying effects within the 10 baseline regions throughout PG&E’s Northern and Central California territory, the utility said. Baselines for customers of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric Co. remain unchanged. 

The change lowers each month’s bill by $3.27 for an average PG&E customer using 500 kilowatt-hours per month said Christy Dennis, a PG&E spokeswoman. 

Those customers who never surpassed the old baseline won’t see any change, though it could lower bills for those who exceed it, she said. Under last year’s record rate increases, electricity costs progressively more as a customer uses more. 

However, PG&E will have to collect the $90 million it will lose through the change — likely by slightly raising other rates to compensate. 

Climate and household size are factors in a region’s baseline. A family living in the desert typically has a higher baseline than a family living on the breezy coast to account for the cost of air conditioning. 

Controversy over baselines grew last spring, when the PUC levied record rate hikes onto millions of utility customers, which don’t take effect unless a customer’s electricity use exceeds the baseline amount by 30 percent. 

Utility customers have complained that current baselines penalize families who live among single people, as baselines represent an area’s average power use. Others are upset that hot and temperate climates sometimes are in the same baseline, which has meant little financial relief for those in hotter areas.