Friday, June 17, 2005

PG&E seeks to raise rates

In order to pay the cost of high-tech metering, Pacific Gas & Electric is asking the Public Utilities commission for a rate hike:

If regulators agree, the utility would end a 100-year tradition of having meter readers go door-to-door to record individual usage.

Instead, electric meters would send such information directly to PG&E computers through the electric lines and gas meters, via radio signals.

First, however, PG&E will have to persuade the state Public Utilities Commission that the $1.46 billion price tag is a good investment. Representatives of small customers are vowing to fight.

"It's just pie in the sky to think that those customers are going to see anything other than increased rates as a result," said Bob Finkelstein, executive director of The Utility Reform Network in San Francisco.

PG&E is seeking to raise residential rates next year by 1 percent for electricity and 1.1 percent for natural gas to pay for the program.

If such a move came with real-time monitoring, the new meters could end up promoting energy conservation.