Yes… Everyone’s Utility Bills in San Francisco Have Been Bonkers

‘The price increase of my PG&E bill was so shocking that I had to pull from my savings to cover it.’

When I opened an email including my recent PG&E bill estimate, I was genuinely shocked. I refreshed the web page — three times. I was convinced something was wrong. (Maybe the utility meter in my building was malfunctioning? Perhaps my bill was accidentally combined with someone else’s? My dyslexia could be playing on an inescapable loop.)

Alas, I wasn’t. After navigating through a relentless onslaught of automated phone prompts — “just give me a fucking person” — I managed to speak with a living, breathing, presumably endothermic human being.


I shared my concerns, primarily about how proportionally larger this bill was than my prior ones. Even this time last year, my PG&E bill wasn’t comparable to this recent charge to keep my 295-square-foot studio lit. At $145, it was over four times the amount of what I had paid in November; there wasn’t any discernible change in my energy uses.

“[PG&E] is experiencing a higher demand for energy usage,” a spokesperson for the embattled utility explained in vague tones over the phone. “There’s also strain on energy resources right now, which has increased costs [account holders] are seeing on their winter bills.”

Their explanation pairs well with the broader public company reasoning. Moreover: The state Public Utilities Commission allowed Pacific Gas & Electric to increase gas and electricity prices at the start of this year, though this permission only accounts for roughly a 3% increase. The rest of that nauseatingly high price spike is related to use and demand; PG&E spokesperson Sarkissian told KRON4 in December that the company expects energy bills will be “about 18% higher each month” this winter compared to this time last year. 

18%? Sure, that’d be painful, though not exactly a bullet wound to our budgets. But account holders like myself have seen their PG&E bills in San Francisco shoot up 50%, 75%, or well over 400% of their normal values.

Aside from making sure to take advantage of off-peak hours and watching your gas usage — but for most renters in San Francisco, especially those who live in rent-controlled units, the latter energy source isn’t likely included in your bill — there’s not much you can do over these next two months.

But as I like to say: A problem shared is a problem cut in half. And in this case: That said problem, our high utility bills, can be a hardship sliced into more than a half-dozen pieces.

Just so you know you’re not alone, we recently got in contact with a few San Franciscans willing to share their PG&E utility bill woes — so we all feel seen and heard in our cursings at computer screens.

I paid $250 for a modest two-bedroom apartment, which was more than double the previous highest bill I ever had in December/January — a decade ago!” 

— Dustin Smith

“I usually pay around $150 to $200 for December, but my bill this time was over $550! Sure, it’s been cold, but I didn’t think I had used the heater that much more. The price increase of my PG&E bill was so shocking that I had to pull from my savings to cover it.”

— Nicole Chin

“We paid $200 more in gas bills than ever before. Our electricity was also $200 somehow. Our winter rates have never been this high. Our thermostat has been set at 65-68 with two children. We’ve put curtains up and put rolled blankets to keep drafts out even. Our total PG&E was about $500, and we’re still catching up from summer rates last year.”

— Ashley Bingham

“Winters are tough on my electric bill. I’m used to paying at least double what I do any other month. Heating is the killer, I’ve got big windows in my apartment and technically we’re not allowed to put up curtains that could help insulate and keep heat in. It was cheaper to go buy a few big thick blankets that I pin up over my windows than pay for the extra heating. At the beginning of December, I got a bill forecast alert from PG&E saying I was expected to hit three times what I usually pay, and that’s when I started avoiding heat from 4 pm-9 pm. Fortunately, I managed to get it back down to only double the cost.” 

— Ryan Boswell

“You don’t even wanna know. The yoga studio was $1,600.” 

— Danni Pomplun

“Our PG&E bill was $227 in December and $183 in January. We’ll leave it at that.”

— Anna Shulz Held and Richard Held

Feature image: Courtesy of Flickr via Steve Rhodes

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