California climate credit coming early: Find out how much you'll get

Finally, some good news! 

If your last gas and/or electric bill was way too high for your liking, some relief is on the way a bit sooner than anticipated. 

The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday ordered several utilities companies - including Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas Company - to issue the Climate Credit to residential customers as soon as possible - rather than as scheduled in April - to help combat the "unusually high" natural gas and electric bills. 

Here's what you need to know. 

What exactly is the Climate Credit?

Every spring and fall, millions of Californians receive credits on their electric and natural gas bills identified as the California Climate Credit. The California Climate Credit comes from a state program that requires power plants and other large industries that emit greenhouse gases to buy carbon pollution permits from auctions managed by the California Air Resources Board. The credit on the electricity bills of consumers represents the consumer’s share of the payments from the State’s program.

The Climate Credit is one of many programs developed as a result of landmark legislation called the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32), which puts California at the forefront of efforts to battle climate change.

Who gets the Climate Credit?

You'll get the Climate credit if you are a customer of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, or Southern California Gas Company. Customers of Bear Valley, Liberty, PacifiCorp, and Southwest Gas will also receive an accelerated credit, officials said.

What do I need to do?

Absolutely nothing!

How much will I get?

The combined Climate Credit is around $90 to $120. To check how much your specific household will get, tap or click here.

When will I get it?

Households typically receive the Climate Credit on their October or November and April or May bills each year, regardless of energy consumption or bill amount.

But due to this "emergency situation" affecting customers across California, the credit should be available on your next bill.

Why is this happening?

Rising natural gas prices, which are passed through at cost directly to utility customers, are resulting in higher energy bills statewide this winter. While the CPUC does not regulate gas prices or gas producers, given the impact of these high prices on ratepayers, the CPUC said it "acted quickly to accelerate the Climate Credit."

"December saw one of the highest natural gas price spikes in recent memory. This price volatility is another excellent reminder of the urgent need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels in our homes and energy system," said Commissioner Darcie L. Houck. "I am proud of the many staff who worked extra hours to quickly approve nearly $1.3 billion in customer bill relief. We expect the utilities to process this relief as expeditiously as possible."

"High natural gas prices are driving up bills for customers. It is important and urgent that the CPUC has taken this action to reduce customers’ bills – especially low-income customers," said Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma."I'm glad we were able to move up this relief from high fossil fuel prices, which comes from the State’s program to fight climate change and reduce global warming emissions."

When will gas bills go down?

Southern California Gas Co. says the natural gas commodity price will drop by 68% in February compared to January's record-high prices, translating to dramatically reduced bills.

According to the utility, the drop in consumer gas prices is primarily due to a corresponding drop in the wholesale price SoCalGas will pay for gas in February compared to January.