PG&E prices could rise if California wildfires continue

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A report requested by Governor Newsom suggests that at some point PG&E customers will be stuck paying higher rates if California wildfires continue to ravage the state.

PG&E faces an estimated $30 billion in potential liabilities related to the 2017 and 2018 Northern California wildfires.

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Looking ahead, future outbreaks would be of grave concern to the utility company, forcing it to look elsewhere to cover its debt.

"Eventually you're going to turn directly to the ratepayers if the utilities are going to be liable and they need to recover their costs," explained Steven Weissman an energy and environmental attorney who wrote an analysis for the governor's office.

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Many customers say sticking them with a hike doesn't feel right given the mistakes made by PG&E.

"It's already difficult to afford the astronomical rents and the cost of parking and the overall expenses of living in the city and the Bay Area," expressed Alicia Biersteker, an Emeryville resident.

Customers like her already pay for prevention and maintenance.

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"The trimming of the trees, the coverage with insulation of the lines so that they don't spark," outlined Mark Toney of The Utility Reform Network, also known as TURN.

Part of the reason why PG&E's stock has fallen is because of that uncertainty regarding future wildfires.

PG&E continues to say it is committed to helping people in areas affected by the fires.

Ironically, higher energy rates could affect clean energy initiatives.

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Companies who make electric cars, for example, could potentially slow down operations because of these higher rates and forced outages.

One thing seems clear, PG&E's woes are certain to pop up in California's economy.

"It's going to come from the taxpayer or the ratepayers or it's going to come in the form of insurance premiums," said Weissman.

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