SoCalGas informed its customers to anticipate higher than average bills in January due in part to the unprecedented cold snap being experienced across the nation, which caused natural gas market prices in the West to more than double, up to 128%, since December.
“While we don’t set these prices (they’re set by regional and national markets), nor does SoCalGas actually profit from rising prices, we want our customers to know that we understand that this may be a shock and a hardship for some,” according to a statement released by SoCalGas in late December.
Gillian Wright, senior vice president and chief customer officer, said in a prepared statement that SoCalGas officials understand that customers are starting to “feel the pain” caused by changes in the natural gas market.
The company also noted high natural gas consumption, reduced natural gas flows and pipeline constraints, including maintenance in West Texas, as factors contributing to higher-than-average bills.
Customers can expect to see changes in their natural gas bills this winter.
“If your residential peak winter bill was around $65 last winter, you can expect to see bills closer to $160 this year,” according to the statement released by SoCalGas. “Similarly, if it was around $130 last winter, customers can expect to see bills around $315 this year.”
These increases are primarily due to increases in the price of gas and to a much lesser extent transportation rates. SoCalGas’ rates for transportation of natural gas are set by the California Public Utilities Commision, which reviews those rates yearly, according to SoCalGas officials.
In an effort to support customers, SoCalGas shared tools and tips to help them find ways to prepare for colder weather and higher winter bills, including financial assistance in some cases.
Customers can sign up for the company’s weekly Bill Tracker Alerts to monitor gas consumption, take steps to reduce usage and avoid bill surprises. Alerts will be sent through email or text, and include a bill-to-date and projected next bill amount to help customers manager their energy bills.
Eligible customers may also sign up for a Level Pay plan, which averages their annual natural gas use and costs over 12 months, according to SoCalGas.
“We have been and will continue to be diligent in informing our customers about winter gas prices to keep them informed and help empower them with important information to assist them through this tough time,” according to the statement released by the company.
SoCalGas also issued some tips, though officials note these tips may not work for everyone, which includes lowering your thermostat three to five degrees – if health permits – which 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 saves up to 10% on water heating costs; turning down the temperature on the water heater; and, lastly, limiting the use of non-essential natural gas appliances such as spas, pool heaters and fireplaces.
For more information on bills and how to lower costs, visit socalgas.com/ManageHigherBills.