Cold Snap weather across the United States has led to more than double the average monthly gas bills for California residents
VISALIA – Harsh winter weather for much of the western states will lead to “shockingly high natural gas bills” for Tulare County and Central Valley SoCalGas customers.
In a statement from SoCalGas (SCG), residents in the Western United States should expect to see their gas bills more than double as a cold snap across the nation drove up demand with dwindling supply. SCG was careful to state that they are not profiting from rising prices. Instead the rate is set by regional and national markets. They did state however that they expect an increase in prices to be a hardship on customers.
“We understand that our customers are starting to feel the pain caused by large changes in the natural gas market,” senior vice president and chief customer officer Gillian Wright said. “And we also recognize that we owe it to our customers to provide them with as many tools and tips as possible to help them find ways to prepare for colder weather and higher winter bills, including financial assistance in some cases.”
SCG stated that a normal winter bill of $65 will be more like $160 this year. Similarly, if a customer’s bill was $130 last winter, they should expect the bill to be $315, a difference of $185. SCG reiterated in their statement that the prices are primarily due to cost increases instead of transportation, which is controlled by the California Public Utilities Commission.
SCG suggests that customers refrain from using their range and oven as house warming devices, replace furnace filters as recommended and have their gas appliances inspected regularly. They state that this is at least a few ways to reduce their natural gas bill. Some other tips include:
- Lowering your thermostat three to five degrees – if health permits – can save up to 10 percent on heating costs.
- Installing proper caulking and weather-stripping can save roughly 10 to 15 percent on heating and cooling bills.
- Washing clothes in cold water saves up to 10 percent on water heating costs.
- Consider turning down the temperature on your water heater.
- Limit the use of non-essential natural gas appliances such as spas, pool heaters and fireplaces.
SCG also recommends customers enroll in their bill tracker alerts so they can better monitor their natural gas consumption.
However, there are more aggressive approaches to saving money such as the SCG level pay plan. Customers can average their monthly costs through the level pay plan by paying the average of their consumption over 12 months
SCG added that there are a variety of assistance programs that include the bill discount CARE (California Alternate Rates for Energy) program, and the free energy efficiency home improvements through the Energy Savings Assistance Program.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), prices at this point have been chiefly because of low supply. The EIA stated that natural gas supply did not keep pace with demand from Western Canada to California which were hit by a cold front from November to mid-December. Specifically, in the first three weeks of December, natural gas consumption in the residential and commercial sectors in the Pacific Northwest and California combined increased by 23% from the second half of November. In addition, natural gas consumption increased 14% for the electric power sector.
Concurrently, there was also reduced pipeline capacity because of maintenance in West Texas–where SCG buys their gas—that led to lower westbound natural gas flows putting upward pressure on Southern California natural gas prices. Also according to the EIA, Pacific region natural gas storage inventories, which are 25% below last year’s levels, and 30% below the five-year average, contributed to increased prices.