After three months of higher-than-normal natural gas market prices driving up energy bills, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) customers can expect, on average, a 75 percent decline in their March natural gas bills.
The decrease is due in part to PG&E distributing the state’s April Climate Credit one month earlier than in previous years. Even without the Climate Credit, March natural gas bills, on average, would decrease 40 percent because of a significant drop in the market prices PG&E pays to buy natural gas to serve its customers, and customers using less gas as colder temperatures moderate. The estimated decrease, which is for natural gas usage in March, is based on customers using 38 therms (a unit of energy) compared to 50 therms in February. Depending on billing cycle, customers may not receive statements for March usage until April.
PG&E does not control market prices, nor does it mark up the cost of gas and electricity that it purchases on behalf of its customers.
“We supported the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision to distribute the statewide Climate Credit earlier than previous years, and we’re grateful to pass on that savings to our customers. Even with this bill credit, we know that after three months of sustained high natural gas prices, some customers may have difficulty paying their bills, and we’re here to help with individualized customer support, including payment plans,” said Vincent Davis, PG&E Vice President, Customer Operations and Enablement.
The average residential non-CARE customer bill for natural gas service in March is projected to be about $37.00, which includes the gas Climate Credit of $52.78. In February, the average residential non-CARE customer bill was about $150.00.
Natural gas prices also affect the cost of electricity since many power plants use natural gas to generate electricity. Customers can expect, on average, a 37 percent decrease in March electric bills. The average residential non-CARE customer bill for electric service in March is projected to be about $91.00, which includes the Climate Credit of $38.39. That’s compared to $145.00 in February.
In late January, California average daily prices for natural gas were five times higher than the U.S. benchmark, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. The higher market prices between November and January were driven by market forces including increased natural gas demand due to colder than normal temperatures; increased demand for gas-fired electric generation due to less hydroelectric generation and fewer electric imports; lower Pacific regional natural gas storage inventory; and natural gas pipeline delivery constraints.
While March bills are expected to drop, some customers still may have difficulty paying bills from the sustained higher prices this winter. PG&E offers individualized solutions and other ways to save. Customers who need more time to pay can extend their due date or make a payment arrangement through their online account at pge.com. PG&E offers many financial assistance programs that can help customers lower their monthly bills.
In addition to the statewide Climate Credit, approximately 300,000 customers who experienced financial hardships during the pandemic also received a one-time automatic bill credit under the California Arrearage Payment Program.
Customers who participated in the Power Saver Rewards Program last year and reduced energy use on event days may receive a bill credit on their February or March energy statement, depending on billing cycle. The program is providing over $55 million in bill credits to participating PG&E customers. Over the 10 event days in 2022, the average customer bill credit for participating customers was $35.