LIVERMORE (KPIX) -- Confusing bills, colder weather and chatter on social media have many in Livermore blaming their new green energy supplier for higher bills. That has prompted some to switch back to PG&E even though East Bay Community Energy is cheaper.
Last year, the Livermore city council voted that residents be automatically opted-in to a new, greener, electricity supplier. East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) arranges for electrical energy from alternative sources such as wind or solar.
The switch was intended to provide an alternative to PG&E at slightly cheaper rates. Residents have until June to opt out.
East Bay Community Energy now provides electrical power to over a half million people across the East Bay. The new electricity charges show up on customers' monthly PG&E bills, along with the gas charges from PG&E and other standard energy charges.
Many noticed a significant spike this month in their overall bill at the same time they noticed the new line item for EBCE. That caused some to assume that EBCE was to blame for higher bills.
"I've never had a PG&E bill this high," said Samantha Duffy. She was one of many in Livermore who took to social media to complain about skyrocketing bills before opting to switch back to PG&E.
"I think there is a lot of confusion of the bills," explains Livermore Councilmember Trish Munro.
Munro explained that the city council, along with 11 other East Bay cities, voted to automatically enroll residents in the green alternative because they wanted to give residents a choice.
"Without this option they would have to use PG&E," Munro said.
The council did give people the option to opt out and Livermore has the highest opt-out rate of any city. Area-wide, the opt-out rate is less than 3 percent. In Livermore, more than 7 percent of people have opted out. Munro believes that is due to a combination of misinformation on social media, colder weather and confusing bills.
Next month's bill will likely lead to even more confusion and bills will be even higher due to the January drop in temperatures. But East Bay Community Energy stresses that these higher bills are slightly less expensive than they would have been under PG&E.
"The bill is honestly very confusing," admits East Bay Energy's Annie Henderson. She notes the bills are generated by PG&E.
EBCE and the city of Livermore continue to provide educational tools to help people decipher their bills. There are detailed tutorials online and frequent in-person educational events where people can bring in their bills.
For those who are still suspect, Henderson points to the posted rate comparison on PG&E's website which confirms that East Bay Community Energy's rates are actually cheaper by 1.5 percent.
While the savings are small, the switch came just as temperatures dropped and people started using more energy. There were also seasonal increases in the cost of gas which shows up on the same PG&E bill as the new energy charges.
However, if you know how to read your bill and you do the math, she insists there is no way anyone's bill is actually higher this month that it would have been with PG&E.
You'll find a detailed guide on how to calculate your savings here.
First, you flip to page three and add up the negative numbers titled "Generation Credit." That's how much you would have paid PG&E.
To find out what you're actually paying, add up the "Power Charge" and "Franchise Fees" on page 3.
Henderson says those are the PG&E exit fees. Then flip to page 4 and add the "Net Charges." She says that's what you're actually paying to EBCE.
When combined, the power charge, franchise fees and net charges should always be less than the "Generation Credit" amount you would have paid to PG&E.
The city is holding an informational event at the Livermore Library on Feb. 13. Experts will be on hand to help you break down your bill and show you your savings.
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