H. (Bill) Wattenburg
Tracking “Baseline” using the PGE
(Downloads of the spreadsheet are found at the bottom of this article)
First Some background
Each home is alloted a certain number of kilowatt hours (KWHs)
each day. Go over that allotment, and you are charged a
surcharge. In fact there are actually five different prices per
KWH depending on how much electricity that you use. These prices
are called “Tiers”.
Baseline tier: is charged at the regular PG&E rate
- Tier1 is the next higher rate charged for energy used that
is between 101% and 130% of your baseline allotment.
- Tier2 is the next higher rate charged for energy used that
is between 131% and 200% of your baseline allotment.
- Tier3 is the next higher rate charged for energy used that
is between 201% and 300% of your baseline allotment.
- Tier4 is the next higher rate charged for energy used that
over 300% of your baseline allotment.
Your PG&E bill shows how many KWHs are charged in each tier and the
price at which they are charged. However the bill is formatted such
that you can not easily tell if the bill is accurate. For example, some
bills contain more than one billing period on the same bill. The
number of days for which each bill covers varies from month to month.
These deliberate complications make it difficult to track your baseline
Why would you want to track baseline allotment? Simple. If PG&E
lowers the allotment, more KWHs will move into the higher priced tiers
and you will pay more for the same amount of electricity even though
the stated prices remain the same. PG&E cannot change their prices
without permission of the Public Utilities Commission, but a lowering
of the baseline allotment has the same effect as a price increase.
According to PG&E there are two baseline allotments, one for the
Winter and one for the Summer. How the baseline is determined for
any home is beyond the scope of this discussion. What is important is
that you track your baseline and make sure it is what it is supposed to
be for your home.
First lets take a look at a couple of bills. One shows a bill
with a single billing period, and the other shows a bill with more than
one billing period.
The bill above contains a single billing period. To find
the daily allotment of KWHs you would divide the Baseline Quantity by
the number of days from 07/27/2011 to 08/24/2011. To find the average
KWHs used daily, add Baseline Usage KWHs and any Tier 1,2,3 and 4 KWHs
and divide that total by the number of days in the billing
period. Note: your Baseline Usage and the Baseline Quantity will
always be the same except if you use an exceptionally low amount of
Using the spread sheet makes these calculations easy. You simply
enter the values from the bill into the appropriate areas and let the
computer do the math. There is no need to worry about how many
days there are in a particular month or adding the different tiers or
the divisions. Another benefit of the spreadsheet is that you
keep a running month to month record of the baseline that PG&E used
to calculate your bill. If that number changes it is time to
Next another billing example, this time where there are two billing
periods. Each billing period will be entered on a separate line
of the spreadsheet.
For whatever reason, PG&E has broken this bill into two
billing periods. You will note as shown in the entry example for
the spreadsheet, the baseline remains the same for both periods.
Why the 5 days in billing period 2 is separate is something for
PG&E to explain. The important thing is that each billing
period should be entered separately in the spreadsheet and evaluated
How to use the Spreadsheet
The spreadsheet is divided into 12 columns, A-L. Your
data is entered into the first 7, A-G. The remaining columns H-L
are where the various calculations are displayed. Line 1 of the
spreadsheet is the headings for the columns. Your data entry starts on
line 2. The columns are as follows with data taken from the
- A: Billing Period Start Date
- B: Billing Period End date
- C: Baseline Usage in KWH
- D: Tier 1 Usage in KWH
- E: Tier 2 Usage in KWH
- F: Tier 3 Usage in KWH
- G: Tier 4 Usage in KWH
Leave blank, any Tiers not shown for a billing period. Calculated Results appear in the following columns.
- H: Your total usage in KWHs
- I: Number of days in the billing period
- J: Daily Baseline Allotment
- K: Daily average usage
- L: Percent of your usage charged at the baseline rate
Once you have entered the data into a line or lines on the
spreadsheet and reviewed the results, save the spreadsheet for use when
next month's bill arrives. After a few months you will note the
The samples bills were from a home where the Winter daily
baseline allotment for the past 3 years has been 12.7 KWHs per day and
the Summer baseline allotment has been 16.5 KWHs per day. In June
of 2011, the Summer baseline allotment dropped to 15.3 KWHs per
day. This drop caused an increase paid to PG&E for the same
amount of energy used. PG&E had no answer when questioned
about the lower allotment but an investigation began and the results
are pending at the time of this writing.
According to PG&E there has been no permission granted by
the PUC to change either the rates or the allotments. They
suggest that maybe it is a computer error. It is for this reason
that you should be tracking your own usage and allotments. If you
have saved your bills, take the time to enter them all into the
spreadsheet to see if there are any random changes in your daily
The image below shows the data entered from the two sample bills. You can click on the image to get an expanded view.
Finally here are actual calculated results from the past 3
years. The input data has been removed leaving only billing dates
and results. Note the Summer and Winter baseline allotments remain the same except for the last three entries
which might have gone unnoticed without tracking the baseline over a
period of years. The change to a lower baseline means higher energy
prices that are hidden to the casual reader of the bill. Using the
spreadsheet will help keep you informed and insure that PG&E has a
harder time of manipulating the bills of unsuspecting customers.
Right click on any of the items below to save them to your computer.