Pacific Gas & Electric warned ratepayers over the winter that residential utility bills could be as much as 24% higher than normal—but then they turned out to be 32% higher.
January’s sticker shock occurred because numerous factors converged: a 300% increase in the price of natural gas, a bruisingly cold winter across much of the state and economic disruptions from the ongoing war in Ukraine.
On Tuesday, San Francisco’s energy monopoly alerted its customers that rates for March could be as much as 75% below February’s. It’s partly because the prices that PG&E pays for natural gas have dropped significantly, but also the company has opted to put the state-mandated April Climate Credit into effect one month early.
“Customers who receive both gas and electric services from PG&E will receive a total bill credit of $91.17, gas-only customers will receive $52.78 and electric-only customers will be credited $38.39,” PG&E said in a statement.
Additionally, more than 300,000 customers who experienced financial hardship during the Covid pandemic will benefit from an extra, one-time state credit.
If heating and electric bills do fall by three-quarters this month, it will be especially impressive given that March is a full three days longer than February.
One secondary benefit of California’s rainy winter is that hydroelectric power stations may be able to operate at a higher capacity, reducing the state’s need to use natural gas as a source of electricity. During the peak of the drought, the turbines at Lake Oroville were shut off because the level of the lake fell too low to run them.
PG&E also expects that warmer springtime temperatures will result in lower heating bills, but what’s true for much of California may not necessarily apply to San Francisco. High temperatures in the city are not forecast to exceed 60 degrees for the rest of the month, several degrees below average for mid-to-late March.
Astrid Kane can be reached at email@example.com