Citing an increase in its wholesale natural gas prices, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) last Monday forewarned customers that winter gas bills are headed upward with the December retail bills estimated to be 5% higher than the same month last year.

December’s wholesale gas prices were up 14.5% at 8.82 cents/th, compared with 7.70 cents/th in November, the utility said.

PG&E said gas prices across the United States have increased since November as customer demand has followed a typical eve-of-winter pattern. “These price increases have been somewhat tempered by the high levels of gas in storage, suggesting that the market should be well supplied with natural gas, even during periods of significantly colder-than-normal weather,” the utility said.

PG&E added the caveat that gas prices this winter could rise or fall, depending on factors such as “weather and market conditions,” but it has worked to protect customers from severe price spikes through smart purchasing decisions, financial hedging against price spikes, and using its extensive pipeline and storage infrastructure to help lower gas purchase costs.

The utility said it is again is offering customers several options to try to manage their winter gas costs. They include rebates on more efficient equipment, and the 10/20-Plus Winter Gas Savings program offering customers 20% discounts on their next monthly bill when they reduce usage in the previous month by at least 10%. The utility also offers various financial assistance options to help eligible customers with high winter gas bills (

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