SAN FRANCISCO — California regulators approved a nearly $2.4 billion rate hike for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers that will see the typical customer’s monthly bill increase by $7.50 starting in the fall and then even more in 2015 and again in 2016.
The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously in favor of the increase on Thursday. It will be phased in over three years.
The money is not connected to the deadly 2010 gas pipeline explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area, though at least some of it is intended to fund improvements to PG&E’s natural gas pipeline network. PG&E also plans to use the money for an improved smart grid program to upgrade the reliability of the electricity system.
PG&E had sought about double the amount that was approved.
“Although the decision represents a significant cut in our request for additional resources to modernize our system for the 21st century, we will continue to make safety our top priority as we plan our work going forward,” the utility’s president, Chris Johns, said in a release.
PG&E serves about 15 million people over a 70,000 square mile area stretching from Eureka to Bakersfield.
The average residential customer’s $129 monthly gas and electricity bill will climb initially by $7.50, according to PG&E estimates. Part of the increase is expected to go into effect in September, with the rest following in October.
Further increases will then follow in 2015 and 2016.
Consumer advocates said the increases might be too much for low-income workers.
“That may not seem like a lot of money to a utility executive with a salary of a million or more, but for low-income workers with stagnant wages, a few more dollars a month can be a huge burden,” said Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network.