On 12/29/2022, my natural gas utility, SoCalGas (formerly Southern California Gas Company), provided the following heads up about substantial upcoming higher gas bills at its Newsroom site:
There’s no easy way to put this: January bills are likely to be shockingly high. An unprecedented cold snap across the nation in part has caused natural gas market prices in the West to more than double between December and January – to the tune of 128% since December.
While we don’t set these prices (they’re set by regional and national markets), nor does SoCalGas actually profit from rising prices, we want our customers to know that we understand that this may be a shock and a hardship for some.
Several unprecedented events occurring simultaneously over the last few weeks have contributed to the rising price of natural gas. For more information on natural gas prices and predictions, visit Natural Gas Weekly Update
• Widespread, below-normal temperatures
• High natural gas consumption
• Reduced natural gas flows
• Pipeline constraints, including maintenance in West Texas
Customers can expect to see changes in their natural gas bills this winter due to the rise in natural gas prices. If your residential peak winter bill was around $65 last winter, you can expect to see bills closer to $160 this year. Similarly, 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. Our rates for the transportation of natural gas are set by the California Public Utilities Commission, which reviews those rates yearly.
I just received my SoCalGas bill for January 2023, that showed a whopping 178% increase in total charges of $482.16 for 105 therms over a 29 day-period compared to January 2022 $173.27 for 88 therms over a 32-day period.
The primary cause was a shocking 296% increase in the Gas Commodity Cost per therm from $0.83 in Jan 2022 to $3.28 in Jan 2023. The $344.79 Gas Commodity Cost for JAN 2023 accounted for 72% of the $482.16 Total Charges for JAN 2023.
Historically, January is my peak natural gas usage month (I have a gas-fired furnace). June through October are normally my lowest usage for natural gas appliances (cooktop, laundry dryer, water heater) with 2022 monthly total charges within the range of $18 to $31 per month. SoCalGas does a great service giving tips to lowering usage and mailing its residential customers a quarterly comparison of their natural gas usage (rating high, medium, low) with others by zip code.
Regarding using wood burning fireplaces to heat homes in Southern California, I’d like to mention that on several occasions in December 2022, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) issued a wood burning ban for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties because air pollution levels were expected to be high. SCAQMD has in place a Check Before You Burn program at this website.
November marks the start of South Coast AQMD’s annual Check Before You Burn season. From November through the end of February, residents are asked to check before burning wood in their fireplaces to limit emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
A No-Burn day is a 24-hour ban on wood-burning in residential fireplaces, stoves or outdoor fire pits in the South Coast Air Basin. South Coast AQMD forecasters call for residential No-Burn Days when PM2.5 is expected to reach Unhealthy levels due to air emissions and stagnant weather conditions.
South Coast AQMD’s No-Burn Day alerts do not apply to mountain communities above 3,000 feet in elevation, the Coachella Valley or High Desert, homes that rely on wood as a sole source of heat, low income households and those without natural gas service. Gas and other non-wood burning fireplaces are also exempt.
I stopped using my residential wood burning and natural gas-fired fireplace a long-time ago.