Average gas bill expected to decrease by $140 relative to January
East County News Service
February 28, 2023 (San Diego) – After hitting a historic high in January due to unprecedented natural gas market conditions in the West that resulting in a doubling of consumers' gas bills, San Diego Gas & Electric announced today that the March natural gas commodity price has declined by approximately 83% compared to January 2023, plunging from $3.45 per therm to $0.60 per therm.
The typical residential customer’s gas bill (commodity plus delivery charges and other mandated fees and taxes) is expected to decrease to about $85 in March, from around $225 in January. This is the second month in a row that natural gas commodity prices are going down. The reduction in wholesale natural gas price is driven in part by the restoration of service to an out-of-state pipeline.
That’s good short-term news for ratepayers, though SDG&E is proposing long-term rate increases over the next four years, with public hearings slated in March on that proposal, as ECM recently reported.
“This substantial reduction in gas prices is wonderful news for customers,” said SDG&E Vice President of Customer Services Dana Golan. “We understand the unprecedented volatility in gas markets across the Western U.S. has been difficult and we are pleased to see meaningful relief coming for families and businesses. We remain focused on providing support and connecting customers with resources and financial assistance to help get them through this challenging time.”
In addition to lower natural gas prices, SDG&E customers will also see a break in their February and March billing cycles, thanks to the California Climate Credit. In February, natural gas customers received a $43.40 credit, and this month, electric customers will see a $60.70 credit. The California Public Utilities Commission moved up the timing of the climate credit to provide bill relief.
Recognizing that customers still need help, yesterday, SDG&E announced $16 million in relief for customers and in community assistance funds. As part this commitment, SDG&E will fund a new $10 million program to support local nonprofit, community-based organizations that provide essential services to vulnerable residents. The company is also immediately increasing funding for its Neighbor-to-Neighbor bill assistance program to $6 million while doubling the amount of financial support available to each qualifying customer (from $300 to $600 per household per year) and expanding eligibility to ensure more customers can take advantage of the program.
SDG&E does not set the price for natural gas. Instead, natural gas prices are determined by national and regional markets. Natural gas is purchased on behalf of residential and small business customers, and the cost of buying that gas is billed to those customers with no markup. Natural gas prices are updated monthly on customers’ bills.
Why Were Prices So High?
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), a number of factors contributed to higher natural gas commodity prices that customers have recently experienced:
- Widespread, below-normal temperatures on much of the West Coast, including Washington and Oregon;
- High natural gas demand for heating by customers in areas with below normal temperatures;
- Reduced natural gas supplies to the West Coast from Canada;
- Reduced interstate pipeline capacity to the West Coast because of pipeline maintenance activities in West Texas; and
- Low natural gas storage levels on the West Coast.
According to the EIA, the U.S. set a natural gas consumption daily record on Dec. 23, 2022, further exacerbating supply and demand woes.
A Wide Variety of Assistance Programs
Recognizing the impact of recent high energy bills on families and businesses, SDG&E provides customers with many resources, including the following programs:
Additional Financial Assistance
- The federally funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) offers financial help ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on household income, size, and past due balances.
- Income-qualified customers can save 30% or more through the CARE program and 18% on their electric bill through the FERA program.
- Log into MyAccount to sign up for Energy Alerts, set payment reminders, and more.
- Customers who wish to have more predictable bills – even out high-bill months with low-bill months – are encouraged to sign up for SDG&E’s Level Pay Program.
Energy Efficiency Savings
- The Energy Savings Assistance (ESA) program offers no-cost energy-efficiency home upgrades to income-qualified renters and homeowners.
- Through Golden State Rebates Program, SDG&E customers can take advantage of incentives of $20-$500 to purchase high-efficiency water heaters, smart thermostats and room air conditioners.
For Information about additional customer assistance programs, please visit sdge.com/assistance.