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Customers are venting their rage at PG&E on social media. It might get even hotter soon

A person stressed at a home workspace at night, with a laptop, papers, and a lit lamp overhead.
PG&E customers are taking to social media to express outrage over their bills. | Source: Justin Paget/Getty

Shocked and dismayed Pacific Gas & Electric Company customers are taking to Reddit and Nextdoor to find economic relief—and plain old vent—over their soaring energy bills since a $33-per-month rate hike took effect on Jan. 1.

In Reddit’s Bay Area forum, threads abound with titles like “Another price increase from PG&E!,” “time for class action lawsuit against PG&E?,” “how are you guys affording PGE?,” “This is completely insane” and “F*CK YOU PGE.” So many users were posting this month that the forum’s moderator created a “PG&E Sucks Megathread” to organize the outrage in one place.

But if the utility thought they’d heard the worst of it, just wait. PG&E has two pending rate hike requests, one of which regulators will vote on as soon as next Thursday. If the California Public Utilities Commission approves it, that will set off another thunderstorm of furious posting by sticker-shocked consumers.

PG&E filed one request last year to recover costs for wildfire and gas safety, compliance and modernization investments and another request to cover expenses for wildfire mitigation and catastrophic events such as wildfires and storms. If approved, energy bills stand to grow $15 per month for the remainder of 2024 until they decrease over 2025 and 2026 as other rate increases expire, according to PG&E forecasts.

“These costs were not included in prior rate proceedings, and we have requested to recover these costs over multiple years to limit the impact on customers,” a spokesperson for the utility said.

But even next week’s expected rate increase isn’t the end of the bad news for rate-payers. PG&E has filed 12 other cost recovery requests with regulators. Ratepayer advocates now predict monthly bills will go up by as much as $60 this year.

Because every household's energy usage is different, The Standard is asking PG&E customers to submit their stories and bills in the survey box below.

Ratepayers unite

Retired medical field professional Mary Zhu says she sees a new post on Nextdoor complaining about rate hikes every other day. She's fed up seeing corporations push people around. The Inner Sunset resident took an interest in the utility last year after reading about the utility’s rate increase proposal on Nextdoor. She didn’t like what she found.

“PG&E spent some of its own money—God forbid—last year doing what businesses need to do, and they want us to pay for it,” Zhu said.

She’s now using the social media platform to organize neighbors to attend next week’s utilities commission meeting and sign an online petition. Two people have told her they’ll make the trip to Civic Center to speak their minds. “I'm plenty mad,” Zhu said. “I'm hoping people on Nextdoor who complain-complain-complain about $400-$600-$800 bills show up and walk the walk.”

For its part, PG&E says it works hard to keep customers apprised of rate changes. “We communicate across multiple channels, including social media, to keep our customers informed regarding their energy service and energy costs,” a PG&E spokesperson said. “We were proactive in communicating regarding the Jan. 1 rate change that has resulted in higher bills this month, and will continue to always answer the call to help customers understand why their energy bills have changed and ways they can save on their energy costs.”

However, the utility’s communications about the Jan. 1 rate hike did not mention that the private company had officially become the most expensive power provider in California, according to the state’s public advocate. And they don’t mention the cool 25% surge in profits for shareholders the company posted last year, amounting to $2.2 billion.

Mark Toney, head of The Utility Reform Network, estimates energy bills will go up beyond what PG&E estimates to at least $60 a month since the company has other rate increase requests in with the commission.

“It feels like the customers are experiencing all the pain for the shareholders to reap all the gain,” Toney said. “This is organized corporate crime for them to be charging so much and extracting so much from people for their investors.”

TURN is looking for a California lawmaker to sponsor a package of legislation that will offer ratepayers relief, require more corporate accountability and generally better protect customers.

PG&E has been an off-and-on target of consumer outrage for years. The company’s struggles with the 2017 North Bay fires and the 2018 Camp Fire led to bankruptcy in 2019 and a diminished position of power in the city. In 2020, PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 felony counts of manslaughter, and one felony for starting the deadly Camp Fire.

It sold its downtown headquarters and decamped to Oakland. In 2019, Mayor London Breed and then-City Attorney Dennis Herrera offered to buy PG&E’s transmission lines for $2.5 billion to supercharge the city’s CleanPowerSF. The move would allow the city to comply with the Raker Act, a century-old federal law requiring power generated from Hetch Hetchy be transmitted over city-owned lines.

San Francisco need not look further than Sacramento to see the savings that come from public power. Residents in the capital pay $135 for 750kwh of electricity versus the $345 that PG&E customers pay.

Meanwhile, back on social media, ratepayers are seeking advice about switching energy plans, changing habits at home and swapping furnaces for heat pumps.

Some are even making jokes: “To all those complaining about blackouts from the storm: Think of all the fucking money you are saving on your next PG&E bill!”

Update: This article was updated to clearly distinguish PG&E's rate increase requests.