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PG&E, NEMS and power outages

cpa

Active Member
May 17, 2014
3,219
4,285
Central Valley
(Mods, if this is the wrong subject area, feel free to move it to a better one!)

We have solar on our primary residence and on a rental home where our son lives. PG&E is the electricity provider for both. On July 18 there was a fierce storm that knocked the power out not only to both homes but also to tens of thousands of customers here in Fresno. The power was out from around 7:15 in the evening for a little over three hours. The electric meter flatlined of course.

I periodically check on the "My Usage" tab on PG&E's website just to see how much electricity we deliver versus how much we receive. A few days after the outage I was curious to see the "flatline" on the bar graph for July 18. Much to my amazement, the graph indicated that we received approximately 600W per hour during the outage. However, it came with a disclaimer that indicated that during these periods, readings were unavailable for various reasons, so PG&E "estimated" our receipt based upon some algorithm using some sort of data known only to them. The disclaimer further stated that PG&E would figure out what our true delivery/receipt was and would make the appropriate corrections.

Well, sixty days later, there was still no correction as to our phantom receipt of electricity during the outage. I telephoned the solar help line, and the customer representative assured me that things would be corrected. However, she did not know when. I politely asked her how she could know this, as sixty days is quite a long time to cure an error that superficially quite easy to fix, since the outage was known and the affected customers are known. I also said that PG&E currently does not enjoy a favorable reputation for being a good corporate citizen.

After a short time on hold, she reviewed our billing. She came back on the line and said that no correction was in the works, and that she would kick it up to a supervisor to make the necessary corrections. She said further that the supervisor would be calling me after the corrections were made to both accounts informing me of the end result.

Granted, squawking about four bits or so of phantom electricity charges is probably not worth anyone's time. But there is no excuse for any company to blow off its customers knowingly and charge them for merchandise not received, regardless of amount. The variable in all this is that we do not know just how many customers were affected throughout the outage area (or, for that matter in all PG&E outages throughout their territory in any given time period.) We just do not know if PG&E has the necessary internal controls and internal audit staff to review their systems to determine if billing and operations are doing the right thing for both the company and the customer.
 
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Reactions: iPlug

miimura

Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2013
6,495
6,259
Los Altos, CA
I had a similar issue. There is exactly 24 hours of usage data missing from my account in March 2013. I was doing some rate calculations and found that my figures based on Green Button (SmartMeter) data were lower than billed and I was trying to figure out why since that one month was the only anomaly. Since the missing data is exactly midnight to midnight, it is impossible for it to be a power outage. However, PG&E's estimation is pretty much the worst case they could justify. During the 24 hours immediately before the missing data I had done an unusually large amount of vehicle charging and it was a particularly cloudy day. That made the net usage about 30kWh higher than the average of +/-3 days on either side of the missing data. I have been unable to find any written policy about how PG&E is supposed to estimate usage and I have never seen another case of completely missing Green Button data either. The PG&E solar department agrees that the data is simply missing. Personally, I feel that if they are unable to provide evidence of how much energy they have actually delivered, they should not be allowed to bill anything for the period, purely as a punishment for poor operational execution.
 

iPlug

Member
Sep 14, 2019
565
814
Rocklin, CA
Same issue here. There were 4 evenings in the last few months that we had power outages with estimated charges (all showing electricity delivered and not flat lined).

After the last power outage on 10/14/2020, as with @cpa above, I called the solar help line. At the time we principally discussed the most recent power outage discrepancies and the customer service representative assured me that things would be corrected (show no electricity charge for the outages) by the time our bill came out. It was not.

I went back over my bills and hourly data online, and indeed we were charged for all estimated phantom electricity as well as over the prior months. I have now sent an email to their customer service department asking that this be fixed and am awaiting a response.

In our case, the erroneous charges amount to only 18.1 kWh of mostly peak/partial peak electricity. For us alone, this amounts to little money worth our time. But the principle here relates to the number of people affected and cumulative money from falsely charged customers is significant.

This comes off as: Heads, you lose (your electricity); tails, we win (as we still charge you for phantom electricity).
 

iPlug

Member
Sep 14, 2019
565
814
Rocklin, CA
In our case, all except possibly one of the outages were not related to PSPS but rather old equipment failures that effected a large portion of our zip code. But yes, suspect PSPS customers might be seeing similar shenanigans.
 

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