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Getting Answers: Why are PG&E bills skyrocketing?

PG&E customers could see a rise in heating costs
PG&E customers could see a rise in heating costs 02:06

WEST SACRAMENTO – While PG&E is in the middle of restoring power to customers, it is also taking some heated calls.

Customers told CBS13 their bills have increased significantly, sometimes by hundreds of dollars.

So why are PG&E bills so much higher right now?

"It's important that folks understand that PG&E doesn't make a profit on the use of natural gas – when folks are using natural gas," said Jeff Smith, a spokesperson. "That's strictly a pass-along cost that's based on the market price."

Smith says cold weather has played a role.

There is also higher demand and tighter supplies on the West Coast. The utility company said natural gas storage is about 26 percent lower than the average it has been over the last five years.

"I think that's a farce," said Eric Norton, a customer. He claims his business account bill shot up by more than 20 percent.

"I want to know why. I want to know the reason," said Beverly Witherspoon.

"For me, when one month it was $58 and the next very month, we were gone for two weeks and shut everything down and it was three-hundred-something dollars. It doesn't make sense," Witherspoon said.

Another reason according to experts? Besides heating our homes, we also use natural gas to generate electricity. While we received lots of rain recently, it has been a down hydro year. It is also partly usage and partly commodity cost.

"The cost of natural gas is higher. That's not PG&E'S fault. That's not Southern California Edison's fault," said Lucas Davis, a leading expert on energy economics at UC Berkeley.

According to Davis, Californians are experiencing some of the highest natural gas prices in the last 20 years.

Davis does not think customers will see these prices in the future again and they are not expected to last throughout the entire winter.

Meanwhile, PG&E said customers can expect to see these high bills probably into February.

Smith said there are some free and low-cost ways to manage bills and reduce energy use during the winter. 

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