PG&E’s latest filing is part of “general rate case,” a regulatory process that sets the basic blueprint for utility rates over a three-year period. In this instance, the general rate case would shape utility bills from January 2014 through December 2016.
If the utilities commission approves the filing, the typical homeowner’s monthly electricity bill will rise $4.64 in 2014 to $94.37, while the average residential gas bill will climb $6.67 to $52.80 per month. Further increases would follow in 2015 and 2016, bringing the average monthly electric bill to $98.95 and the average gas bill to $58.15. Together, the combined bill of $157.10 would be 15.6 percent higher than the current average residential combined bill, which is $135.86.
The increase would be greater if the utilities commission also approves PG&E’s other rate proposals.
In 2014, for example, the general rate case alone would raise the average monthly residential bill by $11.31, when gas and electricity are combined. The $2.2 billion gas pipeline proposal would add $2 more, according to the company. An extra $1.70 would come from the $539.5 million request to pay for renewable power and other electricity generation. In total, instead of $11.31, homeowners would pay $15.01 more per month in 2014 than they do today. The general rate case would continue to impact customer rates through 2016.
If history is any guide, PG&E probably won’t get all the money.
While the utilities commission seldom rejects rate-hike requests outright, it typically gives utilities less than they want, sometimes much less. In its last general rate case, PG&E asked for a revenue increase of $4.2 billion, spread over three years. The commission approved $1.9 billion. In 2009, the company proposed spending $2.05 billion to fight blackouts on its electricity grid. The commission approved $366.6 million.
PG&E’s new general rate case will receive more scrutiny than the last. For the first time, the utilities commission will hire independent analysts to study the proposal in depth.
“They, like us, are concerned about making sure the system is safe going forward, so they wanted an independent review,” Bottorff said.