PG&E warns of high power bills due to heat wave, offers payment assistance

Did you turn down your thermostat to stay cool at the start of the month? If so, be prepared for higher electricity bills.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. warned customers in a recent email announcement of an increase they will see on their electric bills after a heat wave brought record temperatures to parts of California. for a few days in early September.

According to data from PG&E, residential energy consumption during the September 6 heat wave increased 31% compared to the September 4 period of last year. PG&E currently has 222,850 electricity customers in Sonoma County. This number includes both residential and commercial customers, with residential customers accounting for 87% of the company’s service contracts.

One consumer feeling the pinch is Neil Mogannam, owner of Fourth Street Deli in downtown Santa Rosa. He said during the heat wave his bill was higher than ever. The highest amount his bill had ever reached, he said, was $2,800. This time he paid around $3,800.

For his house, he normally pays between $200 and $240 a month, but this time, he said, his bill was around $420.

“I paid for it, but now I’m more aware of the payment because I can’t afford to pay that much,” Mogannam said. “But what do you expect from a company?”

Along with the warning, PG&E offered different payment plans that customers can request to help ease the cost burden.

“The extremely prolonged heat wave has caused customers to turn up their air conditioners, and any increase in power consumption will lead to higher energy bills,” PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said in a statement. .

“We’re here to help our customers manage their energy use and costs.”

Danielle McCants, customer operations manager for Sonoma Clean Power, said while customers won’t have a rate change due to higher usage, they will see their bills go up as customers use more power. energy.

Contreras said there are several tools, rebates, rebates and offer plans for customers to help pay their bills.

There’s the One Time Assistance Plan which offers eligible customers an energy credit of up to $300 through the Energy Assistance Program through the Community Assistance Program.

There’s also the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, which provides up to $1,000 for household energy bills. Qualification for this program is based on federal income guidelines, according to the PG&E website.

Eligible customers can also request longer term support for their invoices. The California Alternate Rates for Energy program saves 20% or more on monthly gas and electric bills through enrollment.

“We know that no one wants to be surprised by higher-than-expected energy bills,” Contreras said.

“While customers can’t control the weather, which impacts energy bills, there are also factors that customers control, such as how much energy you use; when you choose to use energy; your tariff plan; and apply for financial aid programs…if you are eligible.

The Family Electricity Rate Assistance Program is for households of three or more people. According to June 2022 data from PG&E, 5,743 Sonoma County customers are eligible for this program, but only 1,593 are enrolled.

McCants said Sonoma Clean Power customers can also enroll in the GridSavvy Rewards program and get paid $2 per kilowatt when they save energy during periods of high electricity usage, like during the recent surge. heat.

Santa Rosa resident Steve Share retired about a year ago and now lives on a fixed income. Share said he and her husband hadn’t had any problems with bills lately, but were worried about what might happen over the coming winter months due to the significant rise in prices natural gas.

“We’re very careful about how much energy we use,” Share said. “I think we can manage at the moment, but I think there is concern that we don’t want to spend our savings. That’s not what our savings are for.

Share said that because they are both retired, he and her husband are spending much more time at home and using just as much energy as when they stayed home during the pandemic.

The only difference is that their costs are much higher than before.

“We can support this type of payment, but it will impact other things depending on our income,” Share said.

Sara Edwards is the business reporter for The Press Democrat. You can reach her at 707-521-5487 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sedwards380.

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