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Opinion: Why energy prices are so high this winter — and how to get help

Original post made on Feb 8, 2023

The prices that City of Palo Alto Utilities and other local utilities pay for natural gas and electricity delivered to customers rose significantly this winter. The city is urging people to save energy to avoid surprisingly high bills.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 8, 2023, 11:52 AM

Comments (7)

Posted by Lindsay Joye
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 8, 2023 at 5:55 pm

Lindsay Joye is a registered user.

In 2014 we remodeled our 2,000 SF home to go all electric and removed the gas service. We installed PV and have recently leased an EV.

Our January 2023 electric bill was just $120 for a 33 day period. We used a total of 1,264 kWh of which 1,096 kWh was for the home and 168 for EV charging. Our PV system generated 276 kWh so our net energy usage was 988 kWh. We had accrued a $60 net metering credit over the summer period which reduced our electric bill to $120.

Posted by Lindsay Joye
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 8, 2023 at 6:02 pm

Lindsay Joye is a registered user.

As a followup to my post, I'd like to add that I realise going all electric has large upfront costs and isn't feasible for all, I wanted to share my energy bill details for those who are interested in electrification.

Posted by Easy8
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 8, 2023 at 11:25 pm

Easy8 is a registered user.

Except ...

1. Natural gas prices have been plunging for months, from a high of ~ $10/MMBTU in August to about $2.33/MMBTU currently. A very sharp downtrend in natural gas prices from November to current. Perhaps CPAU has to rely on the futures market, but if so, CPAU needs better traders and hedging strategies.
Web Link

2. Indeed, natural gas prices in other Western regions have NOT risen this winter. In this article, scroll to the chart in the center, and you can see natural gas prices in Canada (AECO), CIG Rocky Mountains, and many other regions did NOT have a spike in natural gas prices this winter, nor a significant increase from winter 2021 to winter 2022
Web Link

There are many areas of the US that are much colder than California, and they don't have heating bills per unit of energy commensurate with ours.

So ... what's going on?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 9, 2023 at 9:59 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Some interesting things came up in all the complaining about our recent utility bills apart from the gas bills: 1) We are each paying $30 monthly for a water connection fee in addition to our regular water bill and 2) We're paying $50 a month for a CPAU users tax.

Those 2 extra fees equal $960 a household or $2,000,000 a year assuming 25K CPAU customers. That's in addition to the traditional $20,000,000 a year in "overcharges" that will be funneled into the General Fund.

What other fees/taxes etc are buried in our bills?

Posted by Barbara G
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 9, 2023 at 10:37 am

Barbara G is a registered user.

Nice for those youngsters with the ready cash to invest in electrification and fancy electric cars and whatnot, but boasting about it is - well - unwelcome.

Meanwhile... seniors on fixed incomes remain hungry and cold as food prices and transportation have doubled (and tripled), and the only advice we hear is, "You should sell the home you've lived in for 65 years."

And go where?

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2023 at 3:41 pm

Donald is a registered user.

Barbara, I agree that bragging about going electric is out of line. The City (and PG&E) have lots of tips to help people reduce their usage. Insulation, sealing all gaps around windows and doors, lowering the temperature of your hot water, washing clothes in cold water when possible are just a few of the options. The home efficiency genie that is subsidized by Palo Alto can come to your house and give you recommendations. I had a visit last fall and it was very helpful. He pointed out several places where our insulation was lacking. I would have to do some major remodeling to go all electric, but I have been able to keep my gas usage down to an affordable value by being efficient.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 9, 2023 at 6:25 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Donald has a good point. Because we live in a "mild" climate, houses aren't as well insulated as the frozen tundra or the hellish heat of the deep south. There are many ways to insulate to protect from climate extreme, and the windows are the first place to start. If you can't afford to have double pane windows installed, cover your windows. Use the sun strategically to get the benefits without boiling over. In winter, take the covers off those windows and get as much sunlight as you can. Light makes heat. And if necessary, there is a utility discount available through CPAU for those who qualify. If you have a gas water heater, turn the pilot off when you don't need hot water. Same with gas indoor heating. Every minute your pilot runs is costing you money. And @Online Name the water fees are ridiculous. Especially the waste water fees. Remember when public rest rooms wanted to charge a dime to unlock the door to get in? Now we're paying way more than that to flush! But, we are so accustomed to our creature comforts. I would not want to be in Turkey right now. We are blessed and sometimes those blessings cost a lot of money.

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