Tree huggers be warned: Soon you may be picking up part of the energy bill for the neighbors who leave all the lights on.

In a recent application to the state, Pacific Gas and Electric asked to raise service rates by 5 percent for their best energy-conserving customers, typically smaller households.

The reason? To give price breaks of 2.5 to 5.7 percent to their biggest energy clients who use between 131 and 300 percent or more than the baseline monthly average.

PG&E uses a five-tier system to differentiate their customers. The system is supposed to promote efficiency by charging lower rates to customers who use the least amount of energy.

But the company, with corporate profits up 4.6 percent in the third quarter of this year, said they’re just trying to be fair.

“It’s necessary to avoid the continued shifting of costs associated with utility services to a limited set of residential customers,” said PG&E spokesperson Joe Molica.

Consumer advocates say the plan runs counter to PG&E’s expressed goal of increasing conservation.

“PG&E seems to be working off the theory that financial incentives produce energy efficiency,” said Mindy Spatt, communications director for the Utilities Reform Network, “but that clearly isn’t the case with this proposal.”

The rate increase comes on the heels of Senate Bill 695, which reversed legislation passed in response to the 2001 energy crisis and eventual Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization of PG&E. The cost of the bankruptcy reorganization, the 10th largest in U.S. history, was passed on to consumers.

Since that time, energy-conserving customers have benefited from a state-imposed freeze on further rate hikes, while high energy users have seen their bills go up an average of 2.1 percent each year, according to the company.

In an effort to meet a Dec. 17 deadline, the company has requested the California Public Utilities Commission to expedite their request by limiting the time the public has to file complaints against the increase.

If approved by the state, the proposed increase would take place Jan. 1, 2010, along with a bundle of other rate hikes the company negotiated with the state three years ago.

Contacting the California Public Utilities Commission: To comment on proceedings or issues the commission is considering, contact the Public Advisor’s Office at CPUC Public Advisor, 505 Van Ness Ave., Room 2103, San Francisco, CA 94102; or call 866-849-8390 or 415-703-2074; or email public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov