Bruce Rayner: On PG&E electrical rate increases
Monthly cost by plan
KWH/mo E7 E6 E1 ETOU-A ETOU-B
500 Summer 87.30 103.71 97.19 110.46 133.32
500 Winter 74.55 89.30 100.43 77.93 101.26
1200 Summer 295.96 335.38 319.63 313.18 319.96
1200 Winter 270.74 243.57 333.67 229.48 243.02
2200 Summer 632.36 722.56 693.63 604.99 586.60
2200 Winter 576.51 501.92 707.67 501.33 445.53
— Submitted by Bruce Rayner
24-hour Residential Customer Service Center: 1-800-743-5000
In March, PG&E announced another rate increase for this year and their plan to change the way the bill some customers. The changeover has now been extended to May 31.
They are canceling some of their older and cheaper rate plans, meaning that some customers will be moved to a newer rate plan which may be more expensive. PG&E gives you an option to choose a different rate plan, but doesn’t clearly state all the facts that determine what will happen to your costs as a result. Further, some of your options to choose expire on May 30. So how can you know which rate plan to choose? From the information on their website, you really can’t.
Like other services and utilities from cell phones to cable TV, PG&E is making the billing schedule more complex which tends to mask the continual increase in prices that we see. There is truth in the billing schedules, but it puts the onus on the consumer to figure out the meaning of all the line items on your bill. Thus, it may pay to learn about the options you have to reduce your costs.
PG&E has had several rate increases in the past year, adding to the confusion. This year they announced they are moving toward a new way of billing for your electrical usage, requiring you to be careful when you use your electricity. Because of the confusion and customer reaction, they have delayed the implementation of their program several times, giving us more time to understand the factors that can make a difference in our monthly cost. Currently the changeover date is set for May 31.
So here’s a basic course in how PG&E determines what you pay. Depending on your usage PG&E gives you a choice of several rate plans. The basic E1 plan covers most households; it’s the one PG&E gives you as a new user. Other plans account for customers that use electric heating, hot water, dryers, or air conditioning. If you’ve added more appliances or changed your usage, it might be a good idea to check your rate plan, it’s listed on your bill. The E1 plan is fairly simple, pay one rate year round, however, when you use a lot of AC in the summer, you could be paying at a higher level or tier, as much as twice per kilowatt hour (KWH). If you use electric heating, make sure your bill shows the “H” discount rate. Other rate plans may be cheaper, but those depend your ability to cut down on usage during peak periods of the day. For those who have the older E7 and E8 plans, those were generally cheaper than the newer plans, however those are the ones PG&E is canceling.
Perhaps the easiest way to get an idea of your cost with any of the new rate plans is to call PG&E, then ask them to evaluate one of your last year’s summer bill (May to Nov) and a winter bill, then tell you what your cost will be under different plans this year, typically E1, E6, or ETOU-A. Don’t settle for, “It should be less/more …”, their computers should tell you exactly. All costs will be higher than last year, it’s the relative plan difference that you should look at. Since plans vary between summer and winter, average your year-round cost. Then get used to cutting back on AC or running the dryer late at night. Rates can change with the time of day and with the season. Sometimes weekends are exempt from peak charges.
What PG&E tells you should look like the accompanying chart. It shows comparisons of cost per month for different rate plans and different amounts of electricity used per month. We “reverse engineered” PG&E’s rate structure to create a program to tell us what they are doing. Your bill shows your rate plan and your usage. The data for the chart came from PG&E’s new tariffs released March 2. The amounts in the chart assume typical use during the day, your mileage may vary.
What you can conclude:
1. Your costs will be significantly different between summer and winter for the same usage.
2. High usage, or plans that have Time of Use (TOU) can result is big surprises when your bill arrives.
3. Your costs must be averaged for the year, plan costs vary greatly by the season.
4. No matter how you figure, there has been a big jump in electric costs since last year.
Bruce Rayner lives in Nevada City.
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