The cost of electricity

Guest CommentaryAugust 27, 2013 

In the past my husband and I have been eligible for the PG&E discount through their CARE program based on our social security income. We are all electric and, even at that, the first couple months of summer, our electric bills were in the $300 range. We made a point, this past month, of not running the AC except for about four days when we ran it for 2-3 hours a day on those really warm days.

So, I was looking forward to receiving our next bill and learning how much we had saved for being frugal and keeping cool hibernating in the afternoon staying indoors and resting. As I opened our bill a couple weeks ago, to my surprise it was more than double — $694. I thought at first that my previous month's payment had not been received on time but that was not the case. A gentleman came to our house from PG&E in June to install a new meter. Was it set to charge double?

We're flabbergasted. There are only two of us living here in this two bedroom house. I run the dishwasher maybe every other day, do about five to six loads of wash a week, we're careful with watering, and I don't do long hours of baking (especially in the summer). Simply cannot fathom how we could use $694 of electricity in one month.

I called PG&E to complain feeling there must be something wrong with the meter. After much discussion and, to our dismay, I was told that when he checked our usage of the past couple years, we were using about the same amount of electricity as prior years. I also learned that we now receive $420 a year ($35 a month) over what their guidelines approve for the discount.

Together my husband and I received an increase this year from Social Security of $36 a month ($432 a year) and that disqualified us from receiving the discount on our PG&E bill. Consequently that $36 a month Social Security increase was cause to now charge us approximately an additional $360 a month on our PG&E bill. I'm having trouble figuring the rationale of the whole situation.

I just read the article in the Aug. 8 Sierra Star titled "PG&E's new energy statement. I've never had trouble reading how much I owe, but I do have trouble understanding how a two bedroom house with only two residents can have an electric bill that has increased by ten times a month more than the $36 a month increase in our social security. At this rate, we will now have to pay an additional $4,320 a year to PG&E because we were over their discount guideline by $420 a year. We were told we could reapply for the discount in June 2014.

Social Security is barely a living wage for most seniors and now the $432 a year Social Security increase we received will actually decrease our income by $3,888 a year.

How can PG&E morally justify not giving the discount to any senior living only on Social Security income?

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