You don’t need to look hard to find reports of natural gas bills doubling, even tripling, for many residents of Palm Springs this winter. Social media is full of posts from people receiving their bills and turning to their neighbors to express sticker shock.
Why are your utility bills higher? To begin with, the price of natural gas went up dramatically in the last year, which means it’s more expensive to heat your home this winter than it was a year ago. Below is a closer look at some of the forces at work and suggestions to help you save energy and money, courtesy of Candice Lee of SoCalGas’ Office of Media and Public Information .
What is the current situation with natural gas prices?
This winter, we’re seeing a significant increase in the market price for natural gas – in fact, the market, or commodity price, is almost double what it was a year ago. This is the main reason our customers are seeing higher bills this winter.
I should point out that SoCalGas customers aren’t alone in this. Natural gas prices are high across the country and gas utilities, like SoCalGas, do not control these commodity prices. The price of natural gas is determined by broader regional and national markets and passed on directly to our customers without any markup. We do not make a profit off of commodity costs.
When will natural gas prices decline?
The commodity cost of natural gas has increased significantly in the past couple of months and is expected to stay high throughout the 2021-2022 winter months. The commodity price for January is significantly higher than December, and about double the price from January 2021 due to higher prices in the market. But the good news is, we expect those prices to come down in the next month or two.
What are some of the specific factors that have caused this spike?
There have recently been two rate changes approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in 2019 that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. New natural gas transportation rates went into effect Jan. 1, with average residential rates increasing by about 6% and small business by about 14% on average. Transportation rates help us maintain the safe, reliable natural gas system that our customers count on.
Non-CARE residential customers may potentially see their January 2022 gas bill (using average January usage of 68 therms) increase by about $32, or 32% compared to their January 2021 gas bill (using the same 68 therms). Of the $32 bill increase, about $30 of the increase is attributable to the increase of the commodity cost of gas. Non-CARE residential customers may potentially see their February 2022 gas bill (using average February usage of 57 therms) increase by about $15, or 19% compared to their February 2021 gas bill (using the same 57 therms).
Of the $15 bill increase, about $14 of the increase is attributable to the increase of the commodity costs of gas. However, the February 2022 bill is projected to be considerably lower than the January 2022 bill due to lower gas prices and lower usage in February 2022.
What can people do to help mitigate the cost of their natural gas bill?
We understand this is a tough time for a lot of people, and SoCalGas is here to help. We have many customer resources, including energy savings tools, programs, tips and services to help our customers use less energy and lower their bills.
For example, lowering your thermostat three to five degrees, if health permits, can save up to 10% on heating costs. Installing proper caulking and weather-stripping can save roughly 10% to 15% on heating and cooling bills. Washing clothes in cold water can save up to 10% on water-heating costs. Over the last five years, SoCalGas energy efficiency programs and services have saved our customers more than $250 million on their natural gas bills and $1 billion in avoided energy costs.
More information on ways to save is available at http://www.socalgas.com/winter
What other tips are there for reducing costs, and what can customers do if they can’t pay their gas bills?
To our customers experiencing difficulties paying their bill, we’re here to support you and we offer a wide range of programs and services. We also offer programs for income-qualified customers – such as a rate discount or no-cost home weatherization services, additional gas at the lower baseline rate for customers with certain medical conditions, rebates on qualifying energy-efficient appliances or upgrades to your home. To sign up for these programs and services, or for more information on how to reduce winter gas bills, visit SoCalGas’ website at https://www.socalgas.com/winter or call 1-800-427-2200.
What financial assistance does SoCalGas specifically provide for customers, and how can this assistance be accessed?
Here are a few programs and resources we offer:
- Gas Assistance Fund: SoCalGas has partnered with United Way of Greater Los Angeles to provide customers who are having trouble paying their bill with a one-time grant for the amount of their gas bill, not to exceed $100.
- California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE): Eligible participants can save 20 percent on their natural gas bill. Go to this site to learn more about that.
- Energy Savings Assistance Program (ESAP): Eligible customers can save energy and money through professional home improvements at no cost. More information about the program is available at this site.