Credit: Courtesy

The Southern California Gas Company is warning its customers that they can expect to receive “shockingly high” gas bills for January, as prices for natural gas continue to blow up along the West Coast.  

The explosion in costs for natural gas for both energy companies and consumers — natural gas prices have more than doubled since this time last year — are reportedly due to high demand and short supply. 

Below-average winter temperatures in California mean customers are using more heat. Simultaneously, out-of-state natural gas suppliers, which California relies on for 90 percent of its natural gas, have reported pipeline constraints, leading to reduced capacity and lower westbound natural gas flows, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Although the colder winter months normally come with spikes in energy costs, consumers are really feeling the burn during this January’s peak in price when compared to last year’s. 

According to SoCalGas, if a customer’s peak winter bill was around $65 last winter, they can expect to see bills closer to $160 this year, or 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 increased transportation rates,” SoCalGas said, adding that rates for transportation are set by the California Public Utilities Commission. 

Market prices of natural gas, which are set by regional and national markets, have more than doubled between December and January; prices have increased by 128 percent since December 2022, and more than 300 percent since January 2022, according to SoCalGas. The wholesale price for natural gas the company paid in January of last year was 83 cents per therm, compared to this year’s price of nearly $3.45 per therm. 

SoCalGas and other utility companies have noted that they do not set these prices, nor profit from rising wholesale gas prices. However, a Los Angeles Times article on the issue pointed out that SoCalGas is owned by the energy giant Sempra, “a big player” in shipping liquefied natural gas to Europe from the U.S., with the shipping of natural gas supply to Europe possibly leading to inventory shortages and contributing to rising energy prices in the U.S.  

While gas bills skyrocket, utility companies are providing consumers with tips and tools for lowering energy costs, as well as assistance for customers who may be unable to afford higher bills. SoCalGas recently made a $1 million contribution to the Gas Assistance Fund, a joint program through SoCalGas and United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which provides income-qualified customers with a one time grant of up to $100 per household to help pay their natural gas bill starting January 17. 

Households in California may also be eligible for a variety of other state relief programs and protections from shut-offs; rate assistance programs such as California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) can help consumers save money on their monthly energy bills, and customers can apply to have past-due balances forgiven through the Arrearage Management Plan (AMP). Consumers can learn more about their options for support through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or through their home energy provider. 

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