After getting unusually high natural gas bills in January, Californians should soon see some relief.
The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday ordered utilities to provide the Climate Credit to residential customers as soon as possible, rather than waiting until April as scheduled.
The credits are expected to average $90 to $120 per household and total $1.3 billion for ratepayers, the PUC said in a news release.
The order covers PG&E, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and the Southern California Gas Company.
The rebate for PG&E residential customers who receive both natural gas and electricity will be $91.17, a PG&E spokesman said on Friday.
Funding for the Climate Credits comes from California Air Resources Board auction proceeds for carbon pollution permits popularly known as cap-and-trade.
Natural Gas Bills ‘Alarming,’ Says CPUC President
“Natural gas prices throughout the West have risen to alarming levels this winter,” said CPUC President Alice Reynolds. “Advancing the California Climate Credit will provide immediate relief to California families struggling to pay their bills while we examine this critical issue and explore longer-term solutions to volatile natural gas prices.”
Commissioner Darcie L. Houck used Thursday’s announcement to promote the state’s efforts to phase out gas appliances in homes.
“December saw one of the highest natural gas price spikes in recent memory. This price volatility is another excellent reminder of the urgent need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels in our homes and energy system,” she said.
Electricity Credit in the Fall
Customers don’t need to do anything to get the credit.
Households typically receive the natural gas Climate Credit in April or May. They also receive an electricity Climate Credit in October or November.
What’s Behind California’s High Natural Gas Prices?
Several forces are driving California’s natural gas prices, which have risen 63% since October even while prices have fallen nationwide by about 50%, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.
The factors include cooler, wetter winter weather than usual in California and pipeline maintenance restricting the flow of natural gas from Texas.
According to Bloomberg, about 70% of the state’s homes rely on gas for heat — a percentage similar to cold-weather states such as New York and Michigan.