With natural gas prices more than doubling since December, many Southern Californians may need help paying for their heating bills this winter.
Luckily, there are a number of programs you can use to lower your gas bill. Some cater to low-income households, while others seek to help every Californian spend less energy while staying warm.
Southern California Gas serves the vast majority of people living in Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura counties. The main exception is in Long Beach, where the city’s Energy Resources Department provides gas supply.
Both utilities are offering customers a way to smooth out the upcoming jump in their bills by spreading the cost over a full year. This approach — called the Level Pay Plan — calculates an average monthly bill based on your total gas usage in 2022. With SoCalGas, your bill is adjusted every six months to keep up with changes in your gas usage.
SoCalGas customers can sign up for the plan by logging into their account online. Long Beach Energy Resources customers can call the utility at (562) 570-5700 to register.
The program shifts spending from winter to summer when people use far less gas. They’ll still pay the same amount throughout 2023, but the bills won’t be as high now or as low in the summer.
For a shorter-term solution, Long Beach customers whose bills rise more than twice their average amount can apply for the utility’s Payment Arrangement Plan. After you make an initial payment set by the utility, you can spread the rest over 12 months or more. You can apply online, at Long Beach City Hall, or by calling (562) 570-5700.
The expected rise in costs is so dramatic that many lower-income households may need more help to keep their gas supply going. This is where a number of utility and government funding programs come into play.
These include the California Alternate Rates for Energy program, which cuts natural gas rates by 20% for qualifying homes. You are eligible if you are enrolled in a safety net program such as Medi-Cal or CalFresh or if your income is no more than approximately twice the federal poverty line (eg, $46,060 maximum for a family of three). ).
SoCalGas customers can apply on the utility’s website. Long Beach customers can apply on the Energy Resources website by picking up a form at City Hall or a branch of the City Library, or by calling (562) 570-2068.
Seniors and disabled low-income Long Beach residents may also be eligible for the Utility Tax Exemption Program, which offers a 20% rebate and waives the 5% tax on utility services.
SoCalGas also has a Gas Assistance Fund that offers a one-time grant of up to $100 to help qualifying households pay their bills. The grants — which are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until the fund is depleted — are available to households whose income is no more than about twice the federal poverty line (although the limit for one and two people is higher is households). The aid is also limited to the primary residence and the applicant must be the person whose name appears on the bill.
The federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program offers one-time grants to help pay your gas and electric bills or make your home more energy efficient. Amounts for eligible households range from $268 to $781, depending on income and location, and up to $3,000 for restarting households whose service was suspended due to unpaid bills.
Grants are awarded by community groups such as the Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment and the Long Beach Community Action Partnership. To find one that serves your neighborhood, consult the state directory. You qualify if you participate in a safety net program or if your income is no more than 60% of the state median income; That limit in 2022 was $49,717 for a family of three.
A great way to reduce gas bills is to reduce energy use, although if you live in a drafty, aging home, it may require some investment. SoCalGas offers a Savings Opportunities tool that analyzes your gas usage and offers recommendations to reduce it, including links to rebates to help lower the cost of more energy efficient appliances.
Energy Resources’ website also offers energy-saving tips, even broken down by month, and a list of steps (many do-it-yourself) to reduce your home’s gas usage.
The rise in the price of natural gas will also drive up electricity bills, as much of this electricity will be generated by gas-fired power plants. But the increase won’t be nearly as dramatic; Household bills for Edison customers will increase 7.2% in January, according to Ben Gallagher, a spokesman for Southern California Edison.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy customers won’t reflect higher natural gas prices in their rates until April at the earliest, spokeswoman Mia Rose-Wong said in an email. How much the tariffs could then change has yet to be calculated, she said, noting that the utility could switch to other power sources to lessen the impact of the gas price hike.
Low-income Edison customers have access to several rebates, including the CARE program, which cuts Edison’s rates by 30%, and the Family Electric Rate Assistance program, which cuts them by 18%, Gallagher said. The utility also offers eligible customers one-time grants of up to $300 from the Energy Assistance Fund, although these are only available to homes that are fully powered.
Customers with electrically powered medical devices can apply for lower rates through the Medical Baseline Program, Gallagher said. And like SoCalGas, Edison and DWP offer a plethora of energy-saving programs, including discounts for energy-efficient home improvements.
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