California utilities told to apply credits immediately to lower home heating bills

After enduring emotional and often scathing public comment, state regulators on Thursday ordered utilities to immediately distribute funds to lower natural gas bills that have become unaffordable for many Californians this winter.

The Climate Credits, which are typically issued in April, will reduce home heating bills by $43 to $56 for most Californians based on their natural gas provider.

“It’s 48 degrees in my home because of the $600 bill I received on (my) limited budget,” one senior citizen, who was forced to shut off her home heat, told a member of the California Public Utilities Commission during their virtual meeting Thursday. “It’s outrageous and my neighbors are suffering in the same way.”

“The corruption level in California has reached an all-time high,” said another woman, blasting both commissioners and utility companies.

It’s 61 degrees in my house right now. I’m wearing three layers and a beanie,” another commenter told the panel. “But I have a good feeling that y’all get to be warm in your homes.”

A combination of factors has caused natural gas bills to soar to two or three (or more) times what they were in January 2022.

Among them, below normal temperatures in the western US which has led to higher demand, lower natural gas imports from Canada, pipeline issues in West Texas and low storage levels in the Pacific region, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

SoCalGas, the largest distributor of natural gas in California and nationwide, says it does not set the price for natural gas and does not profit when prices spike. It issued a warning to customers in late December 2022 as temperatures dropped and gas supplies cratered.

2023 Natural Gas California Climate Credits (typically issued in April)

2018‡ 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
PG&E $30 $25 $27 $25 $48 $52.78
SDG&E * $34 $21 $18 $43 $43.40
Southwest Gas $22 $25 $27 $28 $49 $56.35
SoCalGas * $50 $26 $22 $44 $50.77
California Public Utilities Commission

Funding for the Climate Credits are generated by a state program that requires power plants, natural gas companies and other large industries that emit greenhouse gases to buy carbon permits through the Air Resources Board.


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