California regulators deliver climate credits early to offer relief from high utility bills
California regulators moved Thursday to give the state’s utility customers some relief from high winter bills.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to allow the state’s largest power suppliers to deliver electric and gas climate credits to customers early.
It is part of the panel’s effort to speed up relief to utility customers who are overwhelmed by oversized bills.
January gas prices in San Diego Gas and Electric’s (SDG&E) territory rose to $5.11 a therm which is sharply higher than the $2 to $2.50 range of local prices. The February price fell to $2.77.
The CPUC voted 5-0 to move the April gas credit of about $43.40 to February. They also moved a $60.70 electricity credit from August.
That means a gas and electric customer will see a $104.10 credit on their next bill.
“Most of our customers were angry and frustrated with the volatility and historical high from the commodity,” said Anthony Wagner, a spokesman for SDG&E.
While natural gas rates are down from January, they are still higher than they were in December.
The high bills are also hitting poor families hard because they pay a larger percentage of their income on their energy bill.
“It’s one of the costs that you can only drive down so far in terms of usage, unless you want to sit in the dark,” said Krasna Svoboda, a senior who lives in a small apartment in Oceanside on a fixed income. “And I think I’ve done everything I’m capable of doing to minimize my usage.”
The state’s utilities and regulators were both looking for ways to ease the burden of unusually high bills.
“We were all able to work together in a collaborative fashion, along with the Public Advocate's office to move up the climate credits to help combat the high bills we saw from the historically high gas prices,” Wagner said.
The climate credits are generated from the sale of emission permits which are bought by companies that produce carbon pollution.
Natural gas credits typically appear on bills in April. Electric credits are issued at the end of the summer.
An estimated 900,000 of SDG&E’s 3.7 million customers have gas and electric service. Electric only customers will only get the electric climate credit.
The CPUC said moving the credits does not end their investigation into the high gas rates. The panel is holding a hearing on the issue next week.