PG&E Shuts Off Soaring Number of Poor’s Electricity

By Leticia Miranda Nov 20, 2009

PG&E has been having a heyday shutting off the energy supply of 75 percent more low-income households since last year. Ok, so maybe it’s a judgment that they’re enjoying it, but after hearing that 91,393 poor and low-income homes lost their energy supply because of PG&E, I will take my stabs where I can get them. The deal is with a harder economy basic needs are hard to meet like gas and electricity because more people don’t have jobs or are taking in relatives or close friends who maybe lost their home. Utility bills finally come at the end of the month and if you can’t fork out the money to pay, PG&E sends you a 15-day notice, then a 48-hour notice. If you still can’t pay, PG&E’s new "SmartMeter" makes it easier to shut off your electricity using a wireless signal without sending an electrician to your home, which costs the company money. Consumer advocates say that it is during this final step before shutting off power where customers can negotiate with the company about paying the bill. Considering that most of those 91,393 low-income households eventually paid their bills might lead an astute thinker to believe that the issue isn’t irresponsible customers but the company. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a consumer watchdog group, asked the utilities commission earlier this year to begin a formal process of looking for ways to cut the number of shut-offs. The commission had been scheduled to vote today on a motion to reject TURN’s request, but the vote has now been delayed. "These shut-off figures are really a reflection of the economy and how hard people are struggling," said Mark Toney, TURN’s executive director. "This is the kind of evidence the (utilities commission) cannot turn a blind eye to."

With winter approaching and the economy showing no sign of improving, shutting off people’s utilities will no doubt be harder to ignore.