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SoCalGas Sees 15-20% Lower Winter Bills; Urges Conservation

Although the messages may be economically mixed, Sempra Energy's Southern California Ga Co. utility unit Wednesday predicted lower natural gas bills this winter, but it nevertheless urged its business customers to continue to seek various energy savings through a number of recommended programs. Mirroring a message by its utility counterpart in the northern half of the state, SoCalGas said businesses throughout California should see lower gas bills the upcoming winter.

A combination of mild weather, high gas storage inventories, and no production losses this year due to hurricanes "have helped moderate natural gas prices nationwide," the utility said in an announcement to customers, singling out the business sector.

Bills generally are expected to be 15% to 20% lower, for SoCal's customers across the board, a Los Angeles-based Sempra spokesperson told NGI. Average small business bills for 300 therms should be in the $325 to $345 range, compared to an average winter monthly bill of $407 for the 2005-06 winter months. Similarly, residential bills should be in the $80 to $85 range, compared to an average of $98/month last winter; and large businesses using 500 therms will see average bills of $510-$540, compared with $635/month last winter.

Nevertheless, SoCal encouraged business customers to seek out one or more of its energy-saving programs, including incentives/rebates for efficiency upgrades, online Internet-based services, energy efficiency training courses, onsite inspections and cleaning of gas-fired equipment, and state-of-the art energy control replacements.

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