LOS ANGELES (CNS) - There's good news today for residents who were hit with shockingly high natural gas bills.
Southern California Gas Co. says the natural gas commodity price will drop by 68% next month compared to January's record-high prices, translating to dramatically reduced bills. SoCalGas projects that if a customer received a $300 bill in January, that same usage would result in a bill of about $135 in February. However, prices in the western region are still higher than last year, when the average residential bill for February was $99, according to the company.
``While we're relieved that prices have dropped significantly since last month, they remain higher than usual for this time of year,'' Gillian Wright, SoCalGas senior vice president and chief customer officer, said in a statement.
``We know that many of our customers are feeling the impacts of high prices, and we hear their concerns. More than ever, we urge customers to take advantage of conservation tips, programs, and financial assistance that may be available for eligible applicants to provide some relief.''
According to the utility, the drop in consumer gas prices is primarily due to a corresponding drop in the wholesale price SoCalGas will pay for gas in February compared to January. February's core procurement rate will be about $1.11 per therm, compared to $3.45 per therm in January. However, February's procurement rate is still more than 80% higher than it was a year ago, the company said.
The core procurement rate reflects the price SoCalGas pays for natural gas for residential and business customers. That rate changes each month, based on national and regional markets. According to SoCalGas, the utility bills customers for the gas with no markup and does not profit from the movement of gas commodity prices.
Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson announced this week that the City Council will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to ``establish a financial assistance fund for seniors and families struggling to make ends meet.'' SoCalGas recommends the following tips to reduce energy usage:
-- Lowering the thermostat by three to five degrees -- if health permits -- which can save up to 10% on heating costs; -- Installing proper caulking and weather-stripping to save roughly 10 to 15% on heating and cooling bills;
-- Washing clothes in cold water to save up to 10% on water heating costs;
-- Considering turning down the temperature on water heaters; and
-- Limiting use of non-essential natural gas appliances such as spas and fireplaces.
SoCalGas customers can also use the free Ways to Save tool that could identify ways of cutting gas bills. Ways to Save can be found at socalgas.com/WaysToSave. Customers can also sign up for weekly Bill Tracker Alerts to monitor natural gas consumption, take steps to reduce usage, and avoid bill surprises.
Rising western region gas prices were caused by several events occurring simultaneously at this point in the season: widespread, below-normal temperatures, high natural gas consumption, reduced natural gas supplies to the West Coast from Canada and the Rocky Mountains, pipeline constraints, and low natural gas storage levels on the West Coast, officials said.