SoCalGas offers relief from bill increases

SoCalGas encourages customers to take advantage of various assistance programs, energy-saving tips to lower the burden of high winter gas bills

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. – As Tulare County residents see the highest spike in natural gas prices in over 20 years, there may be relief in sight after SoCalGas announced a $1 million contribution to a program helping income qualified customers.

Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) contributed funding into the Gas Assistance Fund, for a program that will begin Jan. 17. Many Tulare County residents are left in a vulnerable position with the recent spike in natural gas prices. The median household income in the county is $57,394, which is well below the $70,784 national average. To help those who may be struggling, SoCalGas has several options for Tulare County residents with assistance programs and energy conservation tips. 

The program will help income-qualified customers pay their gas bills with a one-time grant of up to $100 per household. In Tulare County, the program will be run by the Salvation Army in Porterville. They can be contacted either by phone at 559-784-7872 or in person Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. A second location in Visalia located at Community Services and Employment Training can be reached by phone at 844-224-1316 or in person Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For a full list of assistance providers listed by county and qualifications for financial assistance, visit www.socalgas.com/gaf. A detailed report about the market conditions that are creating higher gas prices for customers this winter can be found at www.eia.gov/naturalgas/weekly. Customers can also explore more bill payment and assistance options on the SoCalGas website or by phone at 1-800-427-2200. Programs offering no-cost professional home improvements that save up to 20 percent on natural gas bills or even have past-due balances forgiven can be found at www.socalgas.com.

SoCalGas also offers energy-saving tips that can lower bills that can be found on their website. These include adjustments to thermostats, laundry and non-essential natural gas appliances. Each of these adjustments can save up to 10% for customers.

The online tool, Ways to Save, provides energy analysis and conservation recommendations that are personalized for each household. Customers can also sign up for weekly bill tracker alerts sent by email or text to monitor gas consumption, including bill-to-date and projected next bill amounts. 

In a statement from SoCalGas, high bills are due to price changes in the natural gas market, prices that SoCalGas was careful to state are not set by the company but national and regional markets. According to SoCalGas media stakeholder and engagement manager Brian Haas, it’s the sharpest increase in 20 years.

“With prices going up 128 percent from December to January, this is a high not seen by the company in over 20 years,” Haas said. “And the sustained period of high prices has never happened before in this short amount of time. It’s really been a perfect storm of factors happening all at once.”

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), price increases are mainly because of low supply and high demand. Specifically, December’s first three weeks increased a combined 23 percent for residential and commercial sectors in the Pacific Northwest and California. 

Other factors include reduced pipeline capacity caused by maintenance in West Texas – where SoCalGas buys their gas – leading to lower westbound natural gas flows. Also according to the EIA, Pacific-region storage inventories 25 percent below last year’s levels and 30 percent below the five-year national average also contribute.

“We understand that our customers are starting to feel the pain caused by large changes in the natural gas market,” said SoCalGas senior vice president and chief customer officer Gillian Wright. “And we owe it to our customers to provide as many tools and tips as possible to prepare for colder weather and higher winter bills.”

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