By Ray Estrada
California residents will get help paying their natural gas heating bills this winter with state officials´ approval of a conservation-rebate program.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. asked state utility officials to approve the program to help consumers cope with skyrocketing heating costs. The California Public Utilities Commission approved PG&E´s conservation-rebate program at its Nov. 18 meeting.
The conservation incentive program offers customers a 20 percent discount for reducing their gas usage by 10 percent or more. That´s called the “10/20” program, said PG&E spokeswoman Emily Barnett.
The average residential customer who qualifies for the 10/20 program must reduce winter gas costs by about $200, which is a 36 percent reduction in the gas costs they would otherwise be billed in the winter, PG&E officials said. About $60 of the reduction would come as a one-time rebate in April or May, as a result of the 10/20 program, Barnett said.
Under the winter natural-gas savings program, residential and small business customers who reduce their natural gas usage from Jan. 1 through March 31 by 10 percent or more compared to the same months last winter would earn a 20 percent rebate on natural gas charges for those months. The rebate would appear on the bill customers receive in April or May, utility company officials said.
An average residential gas customer who reduces gas usage is expected to save about $90, and get an incentive bill rebate payment of about $60, for a total reduction of 30 percent on December through March gas costs. Customers must reduce their cumulative usage during the three months of the program by at least 10 percent. To qualify, customers must have been at their current home or business since Jan. 1 and remain on their current rate schedule.
State officials took no action Nov. 18 on another PG&E program, a winter gas-cost deferral, which would delay collection of almost 9 percent of winter gas costs until the spring and summer when bills are lower, Barnett said. Action on that program is expected later this month.
PG&E´s winter cost deferral would help to lower bills during December through February for residential and small commercial gas customers by delaying payment of an estimated $250 million in gas revenues from the winter to the spring and summer period. The deferral is expected to reduce the average residential customer bill by about $50 during the winter months, or about 9 percent, and increase the average bill for the next seven months, April through October, by about the same total amount, but spread out over a longer period and added to bills that are much lower than in the winter.
The average rate per natural gas therm last November was just $1.17, but this year it´s $1.75.
For more Information on energy savings programs, see the PGE website or call the Smarter Energy Line at (800) 933-9555.
Reprinted with permission Amador Ledger Dispatch