As natural gas prices plummet, SDG&E customers to see bills as much as halved
The average San Diego Gas & Electric customer's bills are likely to be cut significantly — some even halved — in February due to a steep decline in the cost of natural gas, it was announced Tuesday.
After reaching historic highs this winter due to what SDG&E called "unprecedented market conditions in the Western United States," the commodity price of natural gas decreased by 68% from January's prices, from $3.45 per therm to $1.11 per therm. The price per therm was $2.36 in January 2022, as a comparison.
What this means for the typical residential customer is a gas bill — comprised of the commodity cost plus delivery charges and other mandated fees and taxes — is expected to decrease to about $110 in February, from about $225 in January, according to a statement from the utility.
"Lower gas prices are certainly welcome news, but we recognize many of our customers still need support to deal with higher gas bills, and we've developed solutions to ease the financial strain," said Dana Golan, SDG&E vice president of customer services. "We are here to help and encourage customers to take advantage of our assistance programs, bill discounts and energy efficiency programs that can help provide additional bill savings."
High natural gas demand caused by cold weather, coupled with the partial closure of a major third-party pipeline that provides gas to the west and limited gas storage in California, has caused the extreme volatility in gas prices. Natural gas is not just used for heating and cooking, it's also used to generate 40% of the country's electricity.
According to SDG&E, more than 90% of the increase in the overall gas rate is driven by the market price for gas — the amount it pays suppliers to buy the gas on behalf of its customers.
SDG&E leaders said they do not charge any markup for natural gas — if the utility pays $1 for natural gas in the commodity market, that's what customers pay. SDG&E began alerting customers about rising gas prices and anticipated rate changes in October so they could be better prepared.
Ratepayers were encouraged on Tuesday to use a variety of assistance programs, including bill discounts, debt relief, payment plans and energy efficiency programs.
The Neighbor-to-Neighbor program, established earlier this month and funded entirely by SDG&E shareholder dollars, is intended to provide eligible customers with up to $300 to offset their outstanding bills. The federally funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program offers financial help ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on household income, size, and past due balances.
More information on assistance programs can be found at the SDGE website.