Home » “A Christmas Without Lights” – Families Struggle To Pay Bill As California Regulators Approve Electric Rate Increases

“A Christmas Without Lights” – Families Struggle To Pay Bill As California Regulators Approve Electric Rate Increases


By Justo Robles – CalMatters

Update: On Nov. 16, the state Public Utilities Commission approved a rate hike for Pacific Gas & Electric that will increase residential rates by a monthly average of $22.20 for electric-only customers.

Angelica Vasquez’s anxiety soared when she read the notice on her most recent electric bill: “Please pay $135.81 by 10/26 to avoid service termination.”

But the warning was part of a bigger problem. Vasquez owed a total of $400.68 to Pacific Gas & Electric Co.


For the past four months, the 43-year-old Salvadoran immigrant has been on disability leave from her job at Tesla due to a shoulder injury, she said. Vasquez also has not been able to do her second job, a part-time job cleaning houses to help pay the $3,000 monthly rent on the San Leandro house she shares with her husband, two daughters and two grandchildren.

In the early hours of Nov. 9, Vasquez wanted to warm up the house for her grandchildren, who needed to shower and get ready for school. But there was no power. Vasquez said she immediately called PG&E and explained that she had no money.

The utility giant didn’t offer much help, she said.

“We had to borrow money,” Vasquez added, recounting the day her family remained without power until 11 p.m. “Our food went to waste, so we didn’t have lunch and dinner that day. There’s medicine in the fridge that no longer works.”


Vasquez is one of millions of residents across the state that has seen significant increases in their electric bills in recent years, adding to their cost of living. And the bills for PG&E customers could rise even higher if the California Public Utilities Commission approves a rate increase on Thursday.

The Oakland-based utility is seeking a 26 percent rate hike effective Jan. 1, though one utilities commissioner is suggesting a 9 percent increase.

According to the last electric rate report by the commission’s Public Advocates Office, PG&E rates went up by 92 percent from January 2014 to this September.

‘We can’t afford to stay’


Gov. Gavin Newsom appoints all five commissioners to the Public Utilities Commission, who are confirmed by the state Senate for staggered six-year terms.

State regulators require PG&E and other investor-owned utilities to file an application to review their revenues and expenses in order to establish reasonable rates. In its latest application, PG&E requested an increase in power bills to bolster the safety and reliability of its electric services. The utility also cited inflation and investments in underground electric lines designed to decrease wildfire risk to justify the higher fees.

In Thursday’s decision, PG&E wants $15.4 billion in additional rate revenue for 2023, a 26 percent jump from the year before. But state regulators responded with a proposed decision of $13.8 billion and Commissioner John Reynolds’ alternative of $13.3 billion — 13 percent and 9 percent increases from 2022, respectively. The commission is meeting in El Centro, not at its San Francisco headquarters.

“We are working to keep customer cost increases at or below assumed inflation for the long-term, between an average of 2 and 4 percent a year. We reduced our operating costs by 3 percent in 2022,” PG&E said in a statement to CalMatters.


California residential electricity prices are already more than twice the national average, according to the report by the Public Advocates Office.

Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle, vice chairperson of the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, said his office receives many calls from people complaining about electric bills.

“People that are barely making it, people on disability, you name it,” Dahle told CalMatters. “We get those calls and they’re like, ‘We can’t afford to stay,’ and it’s heartbreaking.”

“The more money PG&E spends, the more they make and that’s not right. We need to make sure that we’re holding them accountable, that we are getting the projects completed with the minimum amount of cost.”

Dahle’s district encompasses 11 counties in Northern California, including the most impacted by recent wildfires. The same state regulators that will vote on PG&E’s proposed increases are also considering a $45 million penalty against the utility company in connection with the Dixie Fire, the second-largest wildfire in state history that began in Butte County in 2021.

PG&E said it is constructing underground power lines in order to prevent wildfires and protect customers. Underground power lines, the utility giant argues, reduces the risk of electrical-triggered wildfires by 98 percent, but a cost to customers of $3.40 a month from 2023 to 2026.

As of Oct. 30, 197 miles of 350 power lines PG&E plans to underground this year have been activated so far. That tops the 180 miles of underground lines in 2022 and the 73 miles in 2021.

Wildfire mitigation is not the only driver of the rate increases, according to the latest report by the Public Advocates Office, created in 1984 to represent the interest of utility customers.

“Transmission and distribution investments are a second factor. That means replacing poles and wires with more modern equipment because certain new technologies can reduce the risks of sparking ignitions,” said Justin Ong, a chief policy adviser at the office.
The third reason for rate changes is rooftop solar incentives. In an analysis published in Oct. 2022, the office found that the cost shift from rooftop solar to nonparticipating customers increased from $3.4 billion to $4.6 billion from 2021 to 2022. Ong added that when rooftop solar owners offset a portion or the totality of their share of costs, customers without rooftop solar disproportionately pay more.

Keeping the power on for poor families

The quarterly rate report also noted that the average monthly bill increased by $52 for PG&E customers from January 2021 to September. Overall, low-income households are the most impacted by higher rates and bills.

According to a PG&E monthly disconnect data report, 19,439 PG&E customers were disconnected for non-payment in September. Of the 5.6 million residential accounts as of September, nearly 1.4 million of those accounts were enrolled in a program that gives low-income customers a 30 to 35 percent discount on their electric bill and a 20 percent discount on their natural gas bill. More than 38,000 customers were enrolled in another program for families with slightly higher incomes that offers an 18 percent discount on their electric bill.

When asked to comment on PG&E’s proposed increase, Ong said he couldn’t provide details on the matter.

However, he added: “There’s no silver bullet to solving our rate crisis. A lot of our investments in utility investments are like a mortgage. Once they’re made, they’re spread out over decades. We’re trying to develop solutions to really lessen the energy burden on households, in particular the lowest income households.”

Ten miles south from PG&E’s headquarters, Vasquez sat near the corner of her living room where a tall lamp illuminated her face as her two grandchildren slept nearby on the couch.

Vasquez said both children are excited for Christmas, but she’s worried about money. She will soon return to Tesla and will work with her daughters cleaning houses.

Though her husband’s job as a construction worker helps cover most basic utilities, it won’t be enough later this year as holiday lights add costs to the bill.

“Am I going to tell them this is a Christmas without lights?” she asked, gazing at her grandchildren. “It’s getting harder and harder to live here.”


Original G November 20, 2023 - 1:51 PM - 1:51 PM

‘Report from CPUC Public Advocate Finds CA Residential Electricity Prices
More than 2X the National Average’
“We don’t hear much about California’s “decarbonization work,” the state’s and California Public Utility Commission’s flawed scheme to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But we see the painful results in our monthly electricity bills.
The Public Advocates Office at the California Public Utilities Commission, published a new report which found PG&E residential electricity prices are more than double the national average. The report also found PG&E rates have gone up 92% in less than 10 years. And PG&E is back at the CPUC asking for even higher rates.
For current electricity rates, the report found that the residential electricity rates went up 38% from Jan. 2021 to Sept. 2023.”
Another excellent piece by Katy Grimes caglobe
pge 2022 “power mix”,
“renewables” were 38.3%
49.3% was from nuclear.
What some people might not catch, “pge owned generation and power purchases”.
Was combining of CA power generation with out of state power purchases done to intentionally hide facts of CA’s inadequate generation capabilities ? ? ?
How much power is purchased from outside CA ? ?
‘Replacing Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant with Renewables ‘Can’t Be Done’
To go 100% renewable would drive electricity prices four to five times higher’
As you might have guessed DEMs can’t allow Diablo Canyon Nuclear plant to close as scheduled in 2025.
Their inadequate nonscalable green energy fantasy house of cards to implode.
‘Nuclear Regulatory Commission could extend life of plant into 2040’s’
“The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on Thursday that the last remaining nuclear power plant in California, Diablo Canyon, will be exempted and will continue to operate while the license renewal application is considered.”
Meantime what is DEM controlled state legislature doing to lower you utility costs ? ?
CA Residential Electricity Prices are more than TWICE the National Average’
Want lower prices?
Stop electing DEMs ! ! !

DOH November 20, 2023 - 1:57 PM - 1:57 PM

“California residential electricity prices are already more than twice the national average.” Does the PUC ever say no?

CAtoTX November 20, 2023 - 9:51 PM - 9:51 PM

Did DOH actually make a logical point and speak against their supreme leader Newscum?

94519 November 20, 2023 - 1:57 PM - 1:57 PM

Shades of 1973- 1974

Old Timer November 20, 2023 - 2:53 PM - 2:53 PM

All a bunch of crap.Its a private company and if they can’t make it then they go out of business then someone takes over.First on the hit list should be the 51 million dollar salary the ceo gets.All a giant scam.

Original G November 20, 2023 - 3:29 PM - 3:29 PM

pge Bankrupt in 2001 and again in 2019.
“California governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, has accepted large donations from Pacific Gas & Electric Co….”
Better return on investment than stock market, and it’s your tax dollars being paid out.
‘California Gov. Gavin Newsom Reaped $10.6 Million In Campaign Cash From 979 State Vendors Who Pocketed $6.2 Billion’
CPUC members are appointed by governor and confirmed by CA senate.
Unelected bureaucrats.
Who do you think politicians focus on, perhaps those giving them campaign contributions?

Glen223 November 21, 2023 - 7:47 PM - 7:47 PM

Unelected bureaucrats, just like the air board ….

All appointed by Newscum to do his “dirty work” so he can claim to be blameless….then just points the finger and redirects to others.

Not unlike some of the democrats that post here.

Glen223 November 21, 2023 - 7:49 PM - 7:49 PM

But she’s “leading with love.”

And millions per year in salary and stock options.

Whatta racket.

Anon November 20, 2023 - 3:08 PM - 3:08 PM

It’s hitting the lower middle class the hardest! Soon it will be just the rich and the very poor left. No more middle class!

Reasonable November 20, 2023 - 3:33 PM - 3:33 PM

I would bet that many of the “rich” (who knows how that’s defined) will end up out of CA also. It’s already happening.

Captain Bebops November 20, 2023 - 5:56 PM - 5:56 PM

Will the last person to leave California turn off the light (borrowed from the billboard sign from the 1970s in Seattle during the Boeing layoffs).

Captain Bebops November 20, 2023 - 3:51 PM - 3:51 PM

We’re living in “Dicksonian Times” again or like the west was 150 years ago which a bunch of slimy business types ruled like bandits. They’re still around and not even try to hide it. Keep in mind that Vanguard and Black Rock are principal stockholders in PG&E. They are evil incarnate.

About a year ago or so I was a little short in the bank account that I pay PG&E with so paid from another account. Then two days later when the bill was due they charged my bank account again. Now what kind of IT programmer wouldn’t have thought that they should check if the account was already paid? I guess one that they got out of a Cracker Jacks box. 🙄

Remember Enron didn’t think highly of Californians either.

nytemuvr November 20, 2023 - 5:48 PM - 5:48 PM

@CAPTAIN BEBOPS…..Mel Brooks nailed it, pharump………

Badge1104 November 20, 2023 - 7:54 PM - 7:54 PM

And they’re getting away with it, because they’re all Democrats now. Used to be the titans of business were republicans and all were criticized but now that their liberal Democrats they are allowed to do at all and are not getting much scrutiny from the democrat majority government and democrate controlled media.

Captain Bebops November 21, 2023 - 9:28 AM - 9:28 AM

They are not Democrats, they are ideologues. I’ve been arguing with them for years. They don’t think they just “believe”. The world is not ready for any “green new deal’. It might be by 2090. By then there could be innovative new methods of producing energy, some that is research right now that are better that windmills that don’t produce energy when there is no wind (duh). Monsters homes eat energy and people buying them learn too late that they can’t afford to heat it but construction firms build them because they are so profitable. It’s all about the money.


Aunt Barbara November 20, 2023 - 4:49 PM - 4:49 PM

Everyone is increasing their prices. It hurts those on fixed incomes the most. Seniors should get a discount!

CJRN November 20, 2023 - 5:43 PM - 5:43 PM

And PGE does not give a senior discount. After learning that the PUC approved the ridiculously high rate hike last week, I took to the PGE website to look for senior discount. None.
So those people who are on a fixed income and not considered poor enough are stuck with the rates.

domo November 20, 2023 - 4:53 PM - 4:53 PM

Someone needs to break up the “family” triad of Newscum, the CPUC, and PG&E… they always got each others’ backs… not the residents ..

American Citizen November 20, 2023 - 7:15 PM - 7:15 PM

I don’t turn the heat on ever for any reason. I also never turn on lights in my house, except for in the room that I’m in. With that said, if you can’t afford to live here, then you need to leave. PGE is a state run utility. Remember that when you vote. Elections have consequences.

Bottom line is your live where you can afford. Don’t expect the taxpayers to bail you out.

CAtoTX November 20, 2023 - 9:57 PM - 9:57 PM

In Texas my electricity bill was $67 for a 2200
Sqft house. I’m glad I got out while I could.

v November 21, 2023 - 12:34 AM - 12:34 AM

And yet, the Filoli Historic House/Garden where Biden & Xi met is boasting the grandest Christmas Light spectacle…..
The White House, Civic Centers, businesses, etc. Geez, spread the wealth. IT IS CHRISTMAS. Let’s put some heat under the right asses to stop the insanity…..
All in the name

No Excuses November 21, 2023 - 1:33 AM - 1:33 AM

American Citizen…Hello. Every one of us that is having a hard time affording to live here CANNOT just “leave.” As a family of 4 in this house in 20+ years we NEVER had a Winter bill over $90~~even for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Now living here alone, on a low fixed income, with 2 bedrooms and a bathroom closed off, investments in recently upgraded insulation, windows, furnace, etc… PG&E usage shows my 70 yr old home doing better than what they call “more efficient similar homes” and My bill was between $275 and $375.00 five months in a row last winter.
This year…things are gonna be rough! CCWater (very highly over-paid Board) just approved another rate increase too. Annual City Sewer rate (already nearing $1K/yr) is moving up again too, and the City has arbitrarily decided that homeowners have to pay to repair the sidewalks bordering their homes~~even where utilities have a “free” easment that goes well into their yards.
Please, Get all the facts! PG&E is an Investor-Owned, Dividend-Paying, For-PROFIT Company, with rates regulated (LMAO) by the CPUC. ~~ Pretty much anywhere you go, if there is rate money to pilfer…there’s more than one Un-elected bureaucratic living higher off the hog than the rest of us, and he’s doing it on our dime!
The Latest published PG&E PROFITS:
First quarter 2023 PG&E earned $623 MILLION, which is an 18.2% increase from the same quarter in 2022.
Quarter ending June 30, 2023 PG&E’s gross profit was $4.344 BILLION, (capital B) which is a 9.17% increase year-over-year.
Twelve months ending June 30, 2023 PG&E’s gross profit was $17.225 BILLION, which is a 1.47% increase year-over-year.
I could qualify for low income “assistance”, but I will not apply for it. I 100% agree with you that your taxes (or your bloated utility rates) should not supplement my life~~and I have to live by what I believe to be RIGHT.
Now, tell me again, Why do I just “need to leave?”
This is not Columbia. Not Nicarauga! Not Cuba!
What I/WE need to do, as STAY, expose the wrongs, and fight for what’s right and fair!
Do NOT vote for another Welfare loving, Socialist Democrat thief!

American Citizen November 22, 2023 - 6:31 AM - 6:31 AM

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If the utility cost are too expensive here you need to leave. South Texas home is under construction right now. BS filter is full.

Cautiously Informed November 21, 2023 - 6:46 AM - 6:46 AM

It’s another of many examples of how the California democrat government ignores and disregards the states middle class taxpayers.

Cautiously Informed November 21, 2023 - 6:56 AM - 6:56 AM

What is really happening is that consumers are now having to pay the bill for PG&Es negligence and greed that caused massive fire related loss and deaths.
And, the California democrat government stated that consumers would not to have to pay for any of it.

WC Resident November 21, 2023 - 8:44 AM - 8:44 AM

While I sympathize with Angelica Vasquez’s plight I believe they, and many families like hers, are screwed regardless of what they do or where they go.
The political system or party in an area does not matter. The lower-middle and lower classes get screwed. There are not enough resources on the planet to support the concept of economic equality or economic egalitarianism.
That said, I’m wondering on why the summary of Angelica Vasquez’s situation did not go more into what the family is doing to contribute. Besides Angelica, the article mentions a husband and two daughters. As there are school age grandchildren I assume the daughters are young adults. When Angelica was physically able to worker as a cleaner the daughter’s helped her. At present, are the husband and daughters working or are they freeloading, waiting for Angelica to do the heavy lifting? Are they getting economic and/or child rearing support from the father(s) of the grandchildren? With three able bodied adults available at all times for employment this household should be able to pull in at least $96,720 per year based on a $15.50/hour minimum wage. The forth adult takes care of the household and children. The rent is taking 37% of that income which is higher than we would hope for but is not disastrous.

American Citizen November 22, 2023 - 6:33 AM - 6:33 AM

Many people believe that California owes them a living. They come here because they think the streets are paid with the old and the taxpayer money is endless. When they find out the free ride isn’t quite what they thought, then they scream and yell.

Captain Bebops November 21, 2023 - 9:33 AM - 9:33 AM

I also need to look why they think that 4PM to 9PM is a period of overuse of energy. It’s business using energy during that day to create comfortable work environments that would seem to be the biggest consumers. I note that in my latest visit to PG&E that they have estimates on the varying plans. For $3 more a month I only need to watch out for use between 5 and 8 PM instead of of 4 to 9 PM.
Utilities are supposed to be service not a hall monitor. They need to be pro-active not re-active. When they get too big they should spin off areas to as to be run by new companies.

WC Resident November 21, 2023 - 12:12 PM - 12:12 PM

@Captain Bebops – the 4pm to 9pm peak is caused by people coming home from work and school. They start cooking, doing the laundry, and some will start charging their car. Many people with electric vehicles they only have enough range for day of driving and so need to charge every day.
Utilities are being proactive by attempting to encourage customers to change their habits. A utility builds or contracts for sufficient capacity to handle normal peaks. It’s wasteful to build excess capacity that would go unused most of the time. Likewise, while a utility could easily use a few thousand extra employees to recover from wildfires or storms it would be considered wasteful for them to hire those people full time just to stand by or to work an hour a day. That’s why it can take days to recover using both their existing people and borrowing employees from areas that were not impacted.
While we may complain about rising costs I see that the utilities are providing excellent value. They are providing water, electricity, gas, Internet, phone, etc. at a cost that is far less than it would cost me to build and maintain that infrastructure on my own. Some of that low cost is grandfathered in. I was surprised to learn that the Paradise fire was started at a transmission line tower that was 99 years old. PG&E was able to buy the land and build those towers at a cost that is far lower that it would take for someone to do the same today. We all benefit from this.

Captain Bebops November 21, 2023 - 3:09 PM - 3:09 PM

But you see, I have doubts that people coming home from work and school use much energy. It’s probably that most people might believe it without having proof.

WC Resident November 21, 2023 - 5:41 PM - 5:41 PM

@Captain Bebops – You can view the energy usage, both historical and in real time for the entire state at The peak electric usage is at this time of the year is around 5:30pm.
All of us that have service from PG&E can look at our own electric and gas usage on the PG&E web site. You can see for yourself where your peak usage times are. Sign in and click on Energy Usage Details. It’s a little silly in my mind but in the lower-right corner of the graph is a green button labeled “Green Button.” Click that and now you can download your hour by hour electric and day by day gas usage date. They used to offer the data going back about ten years but today I see they are offering data for the last three years. PG&G’s user interface is clunky interface but it works.
The home page for the Energy Usage Details also shows the temperature as a purple line on the graphs as that’s a predictor on if you may be using the AC when it’s hot and electric or gas heaters when it’s cold.
For today I can see the spike caused by me running the electric clothes drier somewhere in the 12pm to 2pm time frame.

Captain Bebops November 22, 2023 - 9:27 AM - 9:27 AM

Yes, I am quite aware of those stats since I have smart meter too. That’s how I check if my strategies are working. That’s why I was able see the comparisons in plans for the first time posted given my past use.
The real fly in the ointment is the cost of natural gas and electricity. We can thank Biden for that be of his war project. And this state trying to be “green” way too soon.
But now I have to know how you got paragraph breaks without the period kludge? Either that or they finally fixed it.


No Excuses November 21, 2023 - 4:51 PM - 4:51 PM

WC; Yes, I listen in on their Open Mic meetings as well. I’ve heard all the bragging, the reasons, excuses and what-if’s.
Thank goodness our Military is not run on the same “Why hire them for just temporary jobs, why train them and pay them a decent wage and maybe never need them, why build, and stockpile — if we don’t need them Right This Very Minute.”
~~~ (omg…wait a minute! Our Military IS currently being run by people with that same “not now” mind-set, and THEY are also gaining great personal wealth and future position, while neglecting the Root Cause.)

Whoe Jim November 21, 2023 - 9:37 PM - 9:37 PM

Oh gee, Gavin Newsom, P,G,&E, and the PUC which have all been in bed together for decades will yet again raise our power bills even if we aren’t using more gas or electricity. But the worst part is now they are trying to check people’s income to increase their monthly bills to pay for others or to pad their own profits. It appears that there is more than one fox guarding the henhouse to take more of our money and spend it unwisely…

Jason November 21, 2023 - 11:55 PM - 11:55 PM

As a person who has frequently been on PGE jobs, at PGE service centers. If they would like to save money, they should look to their labor force, never have I witnessed so many people standing around doing nothing. 8 supervisors and 2 workers. Such a corrupt company.

SamE November 22, 2023 - 7:24 AM - 7:24 AM

California voters getting what they wanted! Success!

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