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PG&E pushing to spike most Manteca, Ripon, & Lathrop power bills by at least $132 a year
The PG&E substation on Elm Avenue in central Manteca.

Get ready for another PG&E shakedown.

PG&E — and their slightly less greedy kissing cousins in the form of Southern California Edison as well as San Diego Gas & Electric — are now pushing state regulators to allow them to switch to income-based pricing for fixed charges such as transmission and distribution.

 Currently such charges for a PG&E hostage — people the for-profit utility likes to call customers — are $39.83 on a residential bill.

That is what everyone pays, regardless if they have a rooftop solar deal or not.

It covers the fixed costs of operating and maintaining transmission and distribution lines.

It is also where pending future double-digit rate increases to cover PG&E’s bid to “harden’ its system in a bid to not repeat burning another community to the ground as they did with the Town of Paradise in 2018 will be charged to customers.

A pending application with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) — the self-proclaimed watchdogs for consumers that act more like lapdogs for the state’s for-profit utilities — would restructure fixed rate charges based on a customer’s income.

Based on the three utility firms’ applications, the new rates would be:

*$15 a month for households with an income less than $29,000.

*$20 to $34 a month for households between $28,000 and $69,000.

*$51 to $73 a month for households between $69,000 and $180,000.

*$85 to $128 a month for households over $180,000.

Now consider median household incomes based on U.S. Census data.

*The median household income in Manteca is $82,539.

*The median household income in Lathrop is $99,635.

*The median household, income in Ripon is $102,033.

This means a majority of local households that are now paying a universal $39.83 for fixed PG&E costs will end up paying between $11 and $88 a month more on their PG&E bills.

This is exclusive of actual electricity usage or pending rate increases tied to syupgrades for a system PG&E allowed to deteriorate for decades.

That’s $132 to $1,056 more a year a typical Manteca, Ripon, or Lathrop household will be sending to PG&E.

And it is on top of increaseD costs for actual electricity that is used as well as pending rate increases.

None of this would be possible without the assistance of the California Legislature.

They passed Assembly Bill 205 last year that Gov. Gavin Newsom dutifully signed into law. It gave utilities such as PG&E the ability to submit such a rate change.

It was done, of course, in  bid not for consumer protection, fair pricing or energy conservation — three tasks the CPUC is tasked with — but to further assist low-income households.

Households, by the way, that already have breaks via programs PG&E administers and that other ratepayers subsidize.

They are:

*California Alternate Rates for Energy Program (CARE). A monthly discount of 20% or more on gas and electricity. Participants qualify through income guidelines or if enrolled in certain public assistance programs.

*Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA). A monthly discount of 18% on electricity only. Must be a household with three or more people. Participants qualify through income guidelines.

No one should knock giving a break to the most vulnerable Californians.

But you’ve got to ask whether such a rate restructuring will actually make more households struggle to cover basic costs than it helps.

Consider this: Almost 60 percent of Manteca Unified students qualify for free or reduced meals.

The federal guidelines Set averages that apply to all 48 contiguous states.

Given we live in one of the highest cost of living areas in the country — thanks to housing, transportation costs (gasoline et al) and surprise, surprise — energy costs,  $69,000 a year has more than a few families struggling to make ends meet.

Yet, the PG&E proposal will shift an additional $132 a year to them.

Let’s not forget that California is eager to replace Chevron Sinclair, Costco, Shell, Texaco, et al as your go-to place to fuel family transportation.

That means more of a household budget will be consumed by PG&E.

If you think that will save you money, guess again.

Ever see the price of electricity drop — or even fluctuate — the way gasoline does?

Over the course of the  last 20 years, PG&E has increased your monthly energy bill at a rate that exceeds the oil companies.

Say what you want about Chevron et al but their business model isn’t based on partially charging what you pay based on your household income.

Besides, if you don’t want to  pay Chevron’s high prices, you can just drive down the street to Sinclair and get the gas that often comes from the same refinery for less.

You can’t do that with PG&E.

One might argue it is the nature of the beast.

But Newsom and the legislature let PG&E off the ropes when they were in the throes of their second bankruptcy in 20 years.

Newsom opted not to pursue options that could have forced PG&E’s electricity system to go the way of publicly owned utilities such as in Sacramento, Roseville, Santa Clara, Modesto, and Turlock to name a few that have lower rates and tend not to kill off their customers

PG&E and their for-profit brethren in California are state-protected monopolies.

While having one power provider in a physical area makes sense given the infrastructure  needed, the state goes a step farther and guarantees a solid return on each rate increase.

It is why Wall Street hedge funds are drawn to PG&E that — by its own projections — is on course to shatter profit records just a few years after teetering on the edge of insolvency.

But is it really PG&E’s fault?

It takes two to tango.

But in California, PG&E has three willing dance partners — the CPUC, the governor, and the legislature.

Keep that in mind when mid-2025 rolls around.

That’s the target date PG&E and their enablers are aiming  for to punish electricity users not just on their electricity consumption but also their household income as well.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at