Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The More Things Change...

If you thought it was hard to cancel a cell phone contract or a gym membership, just try ditching a utility!

Lost amid all of the rancor over the ongoing public power battles throughout the state is a particularly annoying fact: even after you switch to a locally owned utility, the big boys will keep on billing you!

The San Jose Mercury News reported yesterday that PG&E will continue to send bills for the next three years-- and possibly longer-- to residents and businesses in the East Bay town of Hercules who left PG&E and are now receiving their electricity from the Hercules Municipal Utility.
PG&E spokesperson Nicole Tam notes, "We understand this is frustrating and isn't going to make a lot of people happy." Umm, yeah.

The Merc explains the situation:

"The bills are arriving for two reasons. First of all, if PG&E loses a customer to another electric service provider, the utility is allowed to bill the customer for what is known as "departing load" fees. This is becauses PG&E buys its electricity in advance based on how much demand the utility expects. When a customer defects, PG&E finds itself with excess expenses, and this is a way to help the utility recover its costs.

Second of all, the fees are especially high because of huge expenses that were run up when PG&E was deregulated in 2001. During California's 2001 energy crisis, PG&E went bankrupt and was no longer able to purchase electricity on credit. The Department of Water Resources and a third party paid for electricity to keep the lights on in the state of California, and the people of California are now repaying the money via these bills."

PG&E billing non-customers [San Jose Mercury News]