The top executives of utility giants in the United States are enjoying rising annual compensation as their customers in households across the country struggle to afford their high energy bills, with costs continuing to rise ahead of the winter months.
An analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings by Utility Dive found that the CEO of California-based Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)—the largest utility firm in the U.S.—received $51.2 million in total compensation in 2021, an increase of 640% compared to her previous year’s pay.
“This goes beyond run-of-the-mill executive greed, and it’s a stark example of rewarding failure,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said of Patricia Poppe’s compensation in a statement Friday.
“It shows a complete disdain for the employees and the company’s 16 million ratepayers, including the ones who are having to forgo necessities to keep the heat and lights on,” Cook added.
EWG noted that Poppe’s pay surge comes as her firm is “jacking up rates on its captive customers, in part to pay for the damage caused by last summer’s disastrous Dixie Fire.”
“PG&E customers have already seen their monthly bills soar by nearly 20% this year,” the group said. “The utility is asking the California Public Utilities Commission to approve an 18% rate increase in 2023. If approved, the plan would impose an extra $31 on the average customer’s energy bill next year, and $58 per month by 2026.”
The Utility Dive analysis also found that CenterPoint Energy CEO “received a retention incentive agreement valued at $25.24 million” last year, “giving him the largest total compensation package among the medium-sized utilities.”
“Even setting aside the CEOs at companies that experienced significant milestones or recent CEO changes, CEOs at many smaller utilities saw their total compensation increase in 2021 after dips in 2020,” the analysis notes.
A growing number of U.S. households, meanwhile, are having difficulty affording their rising energy bills, particularly as the costs of other necessities such as food and housing simultaneously increase.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the country’s residential price of electricity is set to be 8% higher this year compared to 2021. The U.S. Department of Energy expects heating bills to rise 28% this winter for the millions of households that rely on natural gas.
A report published last month by Bank of America found that nearly 20% of U.S. households have either missed or been late on a recent utility payment due to “financial difficulty.”
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