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Bigger natural gas bills are coming to San Diego

San Diego residents can expect San Diego Gas and Electric natural gas bills to be sharply higher in December, and likely even higher in January.

The increases are expected to be steeper than the ones that roiled customers last winter.

“We learned a lot from last year when our customers were frustrated and upset with the uptick in costs of electricity and the uptick in costs of gas,” said Anthony Wagner, a communications manager for SDG&E.

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The utility was under fire from customers last January because those customers did not expect the massive increases that showed up in their bills.

Utility officials hope talking about the increases now eases the sticker shock when December and January bills come due.

The average customer’s gas bill will be close to $80 in December and the utility expects that to jump another 19% or so in January.

A typical San Diego gas customer burns 23 therms of natural gas a month. The average climbs to 31 therms in December and to 45 therms in January.

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Bills would already be twice the typical size just based on usage.

But there are other upward price pressures coming for a number of reasons.

First, there’s a lot of demand for natural gas on the commodity market and that’s pushing up wholesale prices.

And second, cold temperatures are encouraging local customers to use more fuel to heat their homes.

“More usage coupled with a really expensive commodity price are converging together to provide that uncertainty,” Wagner said.

The utility did ask for a rate increase in the fall and that will take effect in January.

And the actual cost of natural gas is climbing because of the war in Ukraine and other factors.

“Our storage is lower, because it is winter and people are using more,” Wagner said. “And, of course, people are using more which causes a fluctuation in the market to have the cost spike because everybody is using it, not just Southern California, but we’re in competition, regionally, with all these other states that are purchasing gas on the open market.”

Wagner said customers can help keep their bills low by having an energy audit of their home, washing clothes in cold water, and lowering the temperature of gas powered hot water heaters.

Only about 60% of SDG&E’s customers have natural gas hookups, but even people who only have electric service could see their power bills go up because natural gas is used to generate a lot of the region’s electricity.

Bigger natural gas bills are coming to San Diego