Yes, your PG&E bills are higher. And they’re probably going to go up even more, because PG&E needs to bury power lines and pay off manslaughter victims’ families, and the investors would rather you pay for that instead of them.
I’m not an investor, but if I were, I’d sure think twice before investing in a company that spent a great deal of time in criminal court over an endless array of manslaughter charges. But PG&E has a special arrangement, that is, a monopoly, and any financial penalties they suffer can simply be passed along to you the consumer, which makes them a very safe bet for investors.
In this context, consider the Bay Area News Group’s report on PG&E’s earning calls Thursday morning. The News Group reports that the investor-owned utility reported profits were down by 10.3% this quarter (they made a “mere” $356 million between April and June), and the dip can be attributed to the cost them having to put power lines underground to avoid wildfires, and of course, financial settlements for the wildfires they’ve repeatedly caused.
And PG&E will cry poor because they made only $356 million in Q2 2022, as opposed the the $397 million they made in Q2 2021. If you’ve looked at your PG&E bill lately, you know who it’s going to fall upon to make the investors whole again.
“During the first three months of 2022 alone, average monthly bills for the typical PG&E customer soared by 16.3%,” according to the Bay Area News Group. “At the end of 2021, PG&E bills for customers who receive both electricity and gas totaled $202 a month. But by March, after two rounds of increases, the average PG&E bill for the typical electricity and gas customer was $235 a month.”
It is true that PG&E must ask the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to approve any rate hikes. But the PUC generally complies. (That’s no accident — recall how Gavin Newsom’s infamous French Laundry dinner was a birthday party for a PG&E lobbyist.)
So PG&E will be asking for another rate hike. “The utility is seeking permission from the PUC to harvest more money from ratepayers for an array of endeavors,” according to the News Group. “PG&E has requested state approval for a revenue increase of $10.5 billion to bury 3,600 miles of electricity lines. This proceeding alone could cause bills to jump by an average of $30 a month."
An unrelated matter on the earnings call was the fate of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which is scheduled to be shut down, but PG&E may need it as a backup to avoid blackouts, That’s going to be the state’s decision. “We need certainty on decision-making,” PG&E CEO Patti Poppe said on the call. “We have to complete tasks. We have to order fuel.”
Image: JPxG via Wikimedia Commons