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PG and E customers facing higher bills

Higher natural gas costs and a two-month payment could add up to big bills for some Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers this month.

Natural gas prices are up from a year ago, adding to heating bills that are normally higher due to cold weather.

On top of that, about one in five PG&E customers were given a choice: they could pay an estimated December bill or wait for two months’ worth of charges while the company put its new billing system in place.



Those who opted to wait could be in for sticker shock, particularly if they cranked up the thermostat during the recent cold weather.

“For a customer getting a two-month bill, they may have been surprised by the cost of the bill,” said PG&E spokeswoman Lisa Randle.




People can set up payment plans by calling the company’s customer service department, Randle said.

Randle said she was not aware of any complaints over the two-month billing option.

Sheri Inouye, spokeswoman for the California Public Utilities Commission, said the commission has not received any complaints either.

Instead of clearing the plan with the utility commission, said Inouye, PG&E sent out notices to customers of the plan.

The California Energy Commission reported that Northern California natural gas spot prices last week were up as much as 74 percent from January 2002.

PG&E baseline residential gas charges on bills rose 33 percent during the year ending Jan. 1.

Randle said PG&E purchases gas in summer when prices are generally lower and uses long-term storage, but it still has to buy some on the spot market.

WHO to CONTACT

Facing sticker shock from your bill? Call PG&E’s customer service department at 1-800-743-5000 to set up a payment plan.


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