SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- PG&E customers could be hit by a series of rate hikes totaling more than $760 over just two years.
In January, electricity rates went up 8%. That was followed by another rate hike of 8.9% in March. This happened all while gas rates went up 11% in January. In total, the average PG&E bill has gone up to $384 annually -- and this could be only the beginning of more rate hikes to come.
"I feel terrible about that. I think that's ridiculous," said Pastor Harold Pierre of San Francisco's Pilgrim Community Church.
He says the rising prices have forced many of his congregants to make tough choices, including one who goes to McDonald's every day to get a Happy Meal.
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"Because that's about all she can afford in trying to keep up with her meals, keep up and keep PG&E," he said.
The severe winter weather that gripped parts of the East and Midwest caused a spike in demand for natural gas. That in turn led to a big hike in prices across the country.
Mark Toney of The Utility Reform Network thinks state regulators acted too quickly to raise prices, knowing demand drops in the summer.
"They could have delayed the price increase and said, 'We're going to wait until later and see how it averages out,'" Toney said.
The utility tells 7 On Your Side it is already asking for rate increases totaling another $377 dollars per household annually in 2023. PG&E says it's also asking for annual rate increases of 3 to 4% each year from 2024 to 2026.
TURN blames what it considers PG&E's belated efforts to mitigate fire danger.
"What are they spending their money on? Is it justified? Why should ratepayers pay for wildfire mitigation that is not done properly?" Toney said.
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Reverend Pierre blames PG&E's lack of maintenance for homes being destroyed and people's lives being upended.
He says they're only acting now because they're being sued.
"Now they want the people to pay for what they should have taken care of long ago," said the reverend.
PG&E declined an opportunity for an on-camera interview, but in a statement told 7 On Your Side the following: "We recognize that any increase to a customer's bill can be challenging. We're here to help our customers manage their energy use and cost."
It refers its customer to PG&E.com for money-saving tips.
Toney, however, isn't ready to give in. He's urging the public to speak out by phoning in to public hearings scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, at both 2 and 6 PM.
"They need to hear from the general public and how the increases are affecting your pocketbook, are affecting your ability to pay your bills, put food on the table, buy medicine," Toney said.
California Public Utilities Commission hearings on PG&E
When: March 22, 2 PM and 6 PM
Live broadcast available at https://www.adminmonitor.com/ca/cpuc
To comment: Call 800-857-1917 (Passcode: 6032788# for English, or 3799627# for Spanish) or submit written comment here.
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