Tough times for small businesses in Kern County could get a little tougher.
If you’re a local small business owner, chances are you’ve received a call or e-mail from PG&E telling you about a change in how the company will be billing businesses for energy.
Starting in November, the utility is going to bill small businesses based not only on how much electricity they use, but when they use it.
A spokesperson for the utility says this change was mandated by Public Utilities Commission.
But, some customers are particularly concerned that during the summer months, rates will be at their highest. Some say that could force them to choose between keeping cool and keeping their businesses in the black.
“Some businesses are on the edge,” said Monica Slikker, President of Vince Crop Dusters, Inc., located in Buttonwillow. “You know, there’s one or two mom-and-pop stores that are on the edge and this could do them in.”
Slikker says she recently received a call from a PG&E representative informing her of the upcoming switch to what’s known as “peak-day pricing.”
This pricing method utilizes information from SmartMeters installed at many businesses in Kern County to determine how much customers pay based on the time of day and the time of year.
But most importantly, in Slikker’s eyes…
"It means summertime between and six, that’s when there’ll be a higher rate,” she said.
That means that beginning next May 1st, small businesses (those on the A-1 rate plan provided by PG&E), will pay top dollar for energy they use in that six-hour window. That will last from the first day in May until the last day in October, when prices come back down for that six-hour period of time.
We contacted PG&E about the change and they suggested that in future summers, businesses that don’t want to see a rate increase do the following:
“Customers, for example, if they can pre-cool their office when rates are lower, then raise the thermostat a little in the afternoon, they’re going to save a little money,” said PG&E spokesperson Jonathan Marshall.
But, Slikker says that’s impossible for businesses that have to be open between and six, especially in the summer heat of Bakersfield.
“Really I don't see that as an option, so I'm gonna stay open my regular hours,” said Slikker. “I'll do what I can to cut it, but I have people that have to work here. So, it can't be uncomfortable.”
A PG&E spokesperson said the change will help out many businesses that are open primarily at night such as bars and restaurants.
However, PG&E’s website says most A-1 rate customers do the majority of their business between the hours of and