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Power Struggle

By Datta Khalsa, Broker

In the wake of the multiple disasters that PG&E has been mitigating, their level of service and response has understandably dipped in recent years, and this trend has hit increasingly close to home of late. A year ago, my brother and sister-in-law built a new home in Castroville that was ready for occupancy but endured 10 months of delays and rescheduled appointments before PG&E got their power connected, which cost them nearly $40,000 in lost rents.

Then, last Saturday, the trend hit even closer when my wife and I received a supplemental bill from PG&E notifying us that we had a balance due to square up on our house bill for the prior 3 months. For point of reference, our typical utility costs run $200-$300 per month, so we had to blink our eyes at the notice—According to them, we owed an accrued balance of $10,353.24!

Since their customer service line for billing isn’t open on weekends, we had multiple days and nights to ponder what could possibly have caused such a spike. We checked our appliances and thermostat settings, and double checked the hot tub and EV charger to make sure there wasn’t some kind of problem with how they were connected.

We also looked back at previous bills to narrow down factors that may have led to the sudden increase. We had replaced our main panel back in November, so we reached out to our electrician to see if he had ever seen a jump like this coinciding with a new installation, and he had not. We waited for Monday to arrive and called at 7AM to get to the bottom of it.

Our first question for the service rep was how could a utility wait 3 months to let us know about such an extreme increase in our power usage. They explained that it is their policy to check the proper functioning of the meter before notifying the consumer and informed us that the meter had been confirmed as properly operating. We expressed that it seemed that a utility company should have an affirmative duty to notify the consumer as soon as they detect such a surge, and were transferred to a supervisor to help us look further into the issue.

PG&E set up an appointment for Wednesday to inspect the new smart meter that had been installed and it was quickly determined that the “constant” on the meter had been set at 15x the standard rate which had resulted in the wild readings we were getting. Big sigh of relief, but now PG&E will need “2-3 months” to correct the billing, and additional calls were necessary to ensure the EV rate is not canceled, to stop payment, and to then reset auto-pay.

Next up, the new 15-Townhome development I am bringing to market in Soquel has our activation appointment with PG&E set for May 25, but if it is canceled for any reason, including weather-related delays like the ones that my brother and sister-in-law endured, we get bumped to the back of the queue, which results in an additional 2-3 months of delay.

Here’s hoping that the rainy season is behind us.

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