Helping Customers in Need

Despite signs of improvements to the economy, many families across California are still struggling to make ends meet. To help our customers, we offer a wide range of options—rebates for energy efficiency products, financial assistance programs like CARE and REACH, and the introduction of the “Green Button,’ which allows customers to download their personal energy use data to better understand how they can save money.

PG&E’s wide array of energy efficiency programs, from instant savings on lighting products to incentives for more efficient appliances, help customers save money by reducing the amount of energy they use in the first place.

We are also working to assist customers when there are challenges or unexpected changes in their financial situation. We have continued our efforts to enroll eligible customers in the long-standing CARE program, which provides a monthly discount on energy bills for income-qualified households and housing facilities.

In 2011, we enrolled customers via outbound phone calls, door-to-door canvassing, online enrollment and direct mail projects. We also partnered with 180 community organizations to reach customers across 48 counties and participated in more than 100 outreach events including job, health and community fairs. In 2011, nearly 400,000 new customers enrolled in the CARE program, bringing the total to more than 1.5 million customers, or more than 90 percent of eligible participants, exceeding the CPUC’s enrollment goal.

Qualified households may receive an average annual discount of $600. Since the program’s inception in 1989, PG&E CARE customers have saved more than $5 billion on their energy bills.

Our Energy Savings Assistance Program provides income-qualified renters and homeowners with free energy education, weatherization measures and energy-efficient appliances to reduce gas and electric usage. Through the program, certified contractors make home improvements such as installing compact fluorescent lights, providing weather stripping, installing showerheads and performing other minor home repairs, concluding with a home safety inspection. In 2011, we treated more than 128,000 homes, exceeding our goal for the year.

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Additionally, Balanced Payment Plans continued to provide an optional free bill payment plan designed to eliminate swings in customers’ monthly energy bills, such as when seasonal changes occur.

And residential pricing plans enabled by SmartMeter™ technology are helping customers better control and reduce energy costs. The SmartRate™ Summer Pricing Plan enables customers to save money by conserving power during up to 15 SmartDays™ each summer, when energy may be in short supply. More broadly, time of use rates enable customers to save money by reducing and shifting some of their usage to off-peak periods. By year-end 2011, more than 22,000 customers were enrolled in the SmartRate™ Summer Pricing Plan.

We also once again offered a Winter Gas Savings Program, rewarding residential and commercial customers who reduced natural gas consumption during the winter (compared to their past usage) with a credit on their gas bills after the program period.

About 80,000 customers logged on to use PG&E’s new Facebook-enabled Winter Gas Savings Progress Tracker application that, leveraging SmartMeter™ technology, allowed them to follow their progress toward earning a rebate online and adjust their behavior accordingly. In fact, those who logged on saved 23 percent more gas than other customers. In 2012, nearly 2 million customers received credits totaling more than $41 million.

Additionally, for more than 25 years, the REACH Program has provided emergency energy assistance to low-income families within PG&E’s service area. This one-time energy assistance program, funded with charitable dollars from PG&E’s shareholders, is administered by The Salvation Army. The program provides assistance of up to $200 to customers experiencing a crisis that prevents them from paying their gas or electric bill.

Last year, thanks to additional federal funding, PG&E expanded REACH to create the REACH Plus program, which helped more than 8,700 families in 2011. The traditional REACH program assisted more than 4,500 customers in 2011. Together, PG&E and its customers provided more than $4 million to help more than 13,200 customers through the REACH and REACH Plus programs in 2011.

Facing the summer heat, communities across the state once again opened cooling centers last year, many available in large part due to financial support from PG&E. Over the past four years, PG&E has provided $220,000 in grants to help fund these pre-existing centers from San Jose to Kern County. The number of centers we have helped fund has also increased from six centers in 2007 to 12 in 2011.

The centers, many located in local government-run senior centers or neighborhood parks and recreation sites, help fill a critical need for those who may not have the financial means to cool and shelter themselves from dangerous and prolonged high temperatures. Financial support from PG&E helps cover staffing and extended hours at the centers, allowing them to remain open late and on weekends so people can relax in air-conditioned buildings.