California regulators Tuesday increased the amount of natural gas and electricity eligible for lower rates, effectively giving small monthly savings to the customers of the state’s major private-sector utilities. The higher baseline levels become effective May 1, following a review of the volumes that was started last year by the state regulatory commission.

The baseline amounts are considered the minimum essential levels of gas and electric usage needed in average residences and they vary with climate zones established by the regulators and utilities. Pacific Gas and Electric Co., operating in the northern half of the state, has 10 separate climate zones, and all but one of them had baseline volumes boosted from 10 to 16%.

PG&E’s utility had no estimates on the impact on its customers’ typical monthly bills. Southern California Edison Co. said the decision by the California Public Utilities Commission should lower the average residential bill of its customers by $1.50/month. Southern California Gas Co. said its estimated bill reductions would be in pennies — 36 cents/month in winter and 9 cents/month in summer months.

“Keep in mind that the CPUC’s decision is an allocation change, not a rate change,” said an Edison spokesperson. “Beginning June 2, our customers will receive approximately 5% more energy each month at the lower baseline rate.”

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