December 30, 2003

Utlity Bill Pay

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is hoping a new outreach initiative will attract customers to its discount program for low-income households.

PG&E officials said new statistics show that many cities continue to lag behind in taking part in the California Alternative Rate for Energy, or CARE, program.

In a push to boost enrollment in the free program, PG&E has unveiled a self-service kiosk system at customer service centers around the Bay Area.

Under the program, eligible customers can save 20 percent on monthly gas and electric bills. The average household saves between $15 and $50 a month.

Although some East Bay cities have a high number of CARE customers, many continue to lag in participation.

Dublin and Pleasanton both have 35 percent of eligible customers enrolled in CARE; Fremont has 60 percent of eligible customers participating. In contrast, 88 percent of Oakland eligible customers have signed on.

"We don't know why the numbers are low for some cities," said Jason Alderman, a spokesman for PG&E. "It might be language or cultural issues. It may be people are reluctant (to sign on) because they don't like to ask for help."

CARE eligibility is based on household size and annual income. A household of up to two people must have a yearly income of $23,000 or less; a household of three must have $27,000 or less; a household of four must have a maximum income of $32,500.

The new CARE self-service kiosks allow customers to quickly apply for CARE while waiting to pay their PG&E bills. PG&E has placed 45 kiosks in its Northern and Central California offices.

The one-page confidential application is available in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.

Customers can request CARE applications by calling PG&E's toll-free line at (866) 743-2273. Applications can also be filled out at

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Posted by Craig at December 30, 2003 04:08 PM