Back in November 2023, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) passed a vote that would increase electric and natural gas rates for California's Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) customers by just under 13 percent.
January 1, 2024, marked the date that these new rates came into effect, and as we roll into February, many Californians are feeling the sticker shock as they see just how much these historic increases are affecting their monthly bills.
For the average consumer? These increases look like roughly $32.50 in additional utility costs each month (that's nearly $400 every year!).
It's an unwelcome adjustment for many consumers, made all the harder by a cost of living that's continuously on the rise, but the rate hikes aren't without their benefits, too.
Why Have PG&E's Electrical Rates Gone Up?
The wildfire rates in California have increased five times more between 1996 and 2021 than between 1971 and 1995, and 85 percent of today's wildfires are caused by humans.
Sometimes it's cigarettes, other times it's a campfire left unattended, but often? It's our electrical equipment catching fire, like overhead powerlines.
Unfortunately, the most effective way to ensure our electrical systems don't spark the next wildfire is to reduce their risk of exposure to high winds, storms, and severe weather events.
And the way to do that is to bury the cables and wires underground.
Doing this costs money, though — and that's where these updated rates come in.
With the newly increased electrical rates, PG&E plans to bury 1,230 miles (1,979 kilometers) of electrical lines, effectively reducing the company's wildfire risk by 94 percent!
It's a massive win for the safety of Californians statewide. However, it doesn't make the newly heightened rates any more affordable, so what can you do?
Here are a few tips to help you save energy now and keep your rates low in the coming months.
Tips For Californians To Save Energy In 2024
Consider getting a home energy audit.
An energy audit is a great place to start if you're stuck on where to begin regarding effective home energy savings.
During a home energy audit, a licensed auditor will visit your home and conduct a walk-through assessment, analyzing each room for energy use and offering recommendations on upgrades and adjustments to your daily habits that might help you save.
Under the Inflation Reduction Act's Energy-Efficiency Home Improvement Credit, you can claim 30 percent of the cost of a home energy audit back on your annual income taxes, up to a value of $150.
Of course, this cost still might not be accessible to everyone. The good news, though? PG&E offers a free alternative in the form of the Home Energy Checkup. The checkup only takes five minutes to complete, and after answering a few basic questions about your home and energy use habits, you'll receive a personalized assessment, including recommendations to help you reduce your consumption and monthly spending.
You can take the PG&E Home Energy Checkup by clicking here.
Sign up for Bill Forecast Alerts.
Another great way to help ensure you stay within your electrical spending budget is to register for PG&E's Bill Forecast Alerts.
When you set up your alert, PG&E will ask you to pre-select an ideal bill amount. Then, during the month, if you're likely to exceed this number, you'll receive a notification so that you can adjust your energy use before you overspend.
Sign up for PG&E's Bill Forecast Alerts by clicking here.
Make some simple swaps to lower your energy footprint.
One of the best things about reducing your energy use is it doesn't have to be expensive!
While major upgrades like investing in ENERGY-STAR-rated appliances, improved insulation, and the installation of a heat pump or solar panels can be hugely beneficial to your monthly bills, there are just as many ways to make an impact on a budget.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Estimates show that as much as 90 percent of your laundry machine's energy consumption comes from simply heating the water! Switching to cold water washes is an easy (and free) change that can save you a lot of money in the long term!
Maximize your savings with OhmConnect.
As a PG&E customer, you're also eligible to join OhmConnect's free demand response program, giving you insights on when electricity is most expensive in your area and tips to help you use less!
On average, new OhmConnect members reduce their electricity usage by roughly 10 percent — that's a big savings!
Here's how it works.
It starts with something we like to call an OhmHour.
An OhmHour is a brief window of time (usually on an evening during the week) when demand on the grid is exceptionally high. During these times of peak demand, utilities will often have to turn on additional power plants, known as 'peaker plants,' to meet the community's needs. The problem? These 'peaker plants' are more expensive to run and more harmful to our planet.
Because of this, utilities would rather pay customers to reduce their usage than pay to turn these additional plants on, and that's where the magic happens.
When an OhmHour starts, you'll receive a notification letting you know to power down and start saving. In exchange for participating and helping reduce demand, you'll earn credit to be redeemed as cash back and points (called Watts) you can use to win prizes and smart home tech from our Rewards Marketplace!
Plus, you'll reap the money-saving benefits of reduced energy consumption during high-demand times when electricity prices are extra high!
PRO TIP: Connect your biggest energy-consuming devices to smart plugs so you can quickly power down during an OhmHour with your smartphone. You can even connect these plugs to your OhmConnect app so that your devices will power down automatically when an energy-saving event begins!
If you're not already part of the OhmConnect community, you can learn more and sign up today by clicking here!
A 13 percent increase to your electrical bill is never ideal, but cutting back on your consumption and finding ways to live more efficiently can help balance the scales.
Try choosing two or three tips mentioned here to get started and go from there! You'll be well on your way to energy savings and a lower monthly bill in no time.