PG&E rings in new year with rate increase for customers

PG&E rings in new year with rate increase for customers »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) -- Michael Judd was not expecting to hear that he would have to be forking over money to PG&E as a result of a rate increase that went into effect January 1.

"I think it's ridiculous," Judd said.  "The thing is you can't do anything about it because where else are you going to go?  It's a monopoly."

According to PG&E, the rate increase means paying an extra $3.38 a month on average for natural gas and electricity costs for the typical customer.

The giant utility said the increase is due to it having to pay higher costs for wholesale energy as well as work to maintain and modernize infrastructure to meet higher levels of safety and reliability.  PG&E then passes on that cost to customers.

But public advocates warn that the rate hike is but one in a string of more proposed rate increases by PG&E.

"The problem is that PG&E is before the Public Utilities Commission to ask for increases over and over and over again.  And those little increases really add up over time,"  said Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network or TURN.

PG&E is requesting more rate increases, as well.

The utility company issued the following statement:  "Fortunately, our rates have stayed in line with inflation over the years and our average customer bills will remain well below the national average."