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Local PG&E Customers Are Seeing Rising Bills — But Why Now?

WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Many Pacific Gas and Electric customers are doing a double take on their recent bills. Some ratepayers are seeing their bill listed as double or triple what they normally pay.

The company says more people are using energy around this time of year and home more often because of the pandemic.

Sunnie Thornton's latest bill made her jaw drop.

"I immediately thought that maybe someone is stealing my electricity because this is the highest bill I have ever had," she said.

The West Sacramento homeowner told CBS13 her latest bill increased by 283 percent compared to this time last year. 

Then, she only paid $52.

Thornton is currently being billed for $199.

When she spoke to a customer representative Wednesday, she was told COVID-19, staffing issues at gas companies and last year's hurricanes were partly to blame. 

"I feel like we've had these issues before for a long time," Thornton said. "It's not the first time we've had hurricanes. It's not the first year we've had COVID."

A PG&E spokesperson told CBS13 natural gas prices are also rising on the global market.

The federal government reports prices rose between March and October 2021, but declined in the last three months.

CBS13 asked why are bills high now?

"I don't think they've declined very much," said Lucas Davis at UC Berkeley. The professor and researcher examines energy and environmental markets. "Natural gas prices are pretty high right now and I think until we see that change, it's going to be reflected in higher natural gas bills."

Davis said high demand and soft supply created the current market. U.S. production of natural gas is just coming back online after being hit hard in 2020.

Another reason why natural gas prices are high? Davis said U.S. production exports about 10 percent of its liquefied natural gas – meaning increased exports pushes the price up in North America. It's unclear when prices will flatten out. 

We asked PG&E if the price hike has anything to do with its history of mismanaging multiple incidents leading to fines and settlements.

"No, the price of gas is something that we're passing to our customers," said Megan McFarland, a PG&E spokesperson. "It has nothing to do with some of the other challenges that PG&E has faced."

The utility company also claims it's not making a cent off the astronomical prices.

For Thornton, she's considering options for her roughly 900-square-foot house.

"I don't know how sustainable this is going to be for me," she said.

To learn more about cost-saving tips from PG&E, click here.

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