SAN FRANCISCO -- Electricity and natural gas rates for customers of PG&E are headed higher, if a powerful state agency adopts a proposal issued Wednesday evening by a state administrative law judge.
Current electricity bills for the average residential customer who consumes 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity are $79.41 a month, said Jonathan Marshall, a spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric. Current natural gas monthly bills for the average residential customer are roughly $49 a month.
The proposal, if approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, would allow PG&E to collect 6.8 percent more in revenue. But that doesn't mean monthly bills will jump 6.8 percent because of the proposed decision in this case.
"The actual increase would be well below that," Marshall said. PG&E was studying the proposed decision Wednesday night and didn't have an immediate estimate about the impact on monthly bills.
The ruling was issued by an administrative law judge with the state Public Utilities Commission in a case involving a general rate increase request by PG&E. The full five-member PUC will make the final decision on the matter, a ruling that would likely occur this year.
"This decision approves revenue requirement increases of $453 million, for a 6.8 percent increase, for PG&E," Thomas Pulsifer, a PUC administrative law judge, wrote in his proposed ruling. That increase applies to 2014.
San Francisco-based PG&E had proposed a rate increase of 17.5 percent, or a $1.16 billion increase in revenue for the utility company in 2014.
The utility also requested a revenue increase of 6.1 percent for 2015 and 5.9 percent for 2016, according to a release by the state PUC. The PUC judge proposed increases of 4.5 percent for 2015 and 5 percent for 2016, the state agency's release said.
The proposed decision advocates significant reductions to our proposed investments," said Christopher Johns, president of Pacific Gas & Electric, the utility unit of PG&E. "We respectfully urge the Commission in its final decision to support responsible infrastructure investment so we can fulfill our mission to provide safe, reliable, affordable energy."
The revenue increases authorized by Pulsifer in his proposal would finance an array of initiatives by PG&E, including repairs and upgrades to both the utility's gas and electricity systems.
PG&E faces heightened scrutiny, as well as fines and criminal charges, in the wake of a fatal natural gas explosion in San Bruno in 2010. The utility has been deemed to be responsible for the explosion, primarily due to its lax maintenance of its gas pipelines and faulty record-keeping.
The rate increase would help support a state-of-the art gas control center the company recently opened in San Ramon. The center provides real-time management and remote control of gas pressure and flows within the system.
Ratepayers would also finance preventive maintenance to pipes, meters and other equipment to prevent degradation and failure.
Electricity initiatives include improved record keeping and additional maintenance and repairs, according to the proposed decision.
Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.