PG&E agrees to offer data for study

BAKERSFIELD — Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has agreed to provide data for an industry-sponsored look into why some local customers' electric bills soared last summer.

The pending study by the Washington-based Institute for Electric Efficiency is separate from the SmartMeter inquiry contracted last month by the state Public Utilities Commission.

PG&E initially delayed handing over data for the institute's study because the company wanted to wait until the commission's inquiry is complete, according to a spokesman for the nonprofit institute's parent trade group, the Edison Electric Institute, of which PG&E is a member.

The spokesman, Jim Owen, said the decision to postpone the study was "a joint decision" by PG&E and the nonprofit.

The nonprofit has estimated that its study would take between two weeks and a month; it is scheduled to begin in June or July. The commission's study is expected to take about four months and be finished in August.

PG&E said in an e-mail Tuesday that it is "happy to share" data allowing IEE's study to move forward.

The IEE's executive director, Lisa Wood, said in a February phone interview that she thinks hot weather and rate increases are to blame for high PG&E bills in Bak- ersfield last summer. But a study was necessary, she said, to address growing skepticism within the industry.

"I think that an analysis has to be done to clarify what the situation is and what caused the bills to go up," Wood said in February.

The other study, sponsored by the state commission, calls for an evaluation of the remotely reporting meters' accuracy, a look into customer complaints about high bills and a comparison of PG&E's meter rollout to the industry's best practices.

That $1.4 million study, expected to paid for by PG&E, is being performed by Houston-based consulting firm The Structure Group.