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San Diego Residents Lagging On Utility Bills

The research and data reveal that 26.7% of customers are lagging on their utility bills.

March 10, 2024

Nearly one-quarter of residents in San Diego are lagging behind their gas and electricity monthly bills but the chances are that progress will be made and the financial burden on the San Diego residents will be reduced.

The data revealed that the dollar amounts owed have declined in months. More than 361,000 SDG&E customers were at least 30 days behind on their monthly payments at the end of January. This means that 26.7% of the utility’s residential customer base has not moved much in the previous years.

There’s a positive side to it also. Compared to the previous month, the number of customers with accounts in arrears dropped by 16,000.

Many utility customers are trying to recover from a series of economic blows experienced in recent years. Many Californians saw an increase in their monthly bills because they spent more time working from home due to the COVID-19 restrictions in 2020. Not only this, but unemployment also increased which in turn led some customers to miss payments.

But, around 20% of people were lagging more than 30 days behind on their payments even before COVID-19. It’s just that the numbers soared even more after the pandemic.

Another reason for the Californians finding it difficult to make their payments is inflation. Due to the sharp rise in inflation, many Californians saw a decline in their budgets, especially low-income people.

The utility rates in California also soared in the past decade as power companies are spending on things that reduce the risk of wildfires and come up with programs to enable the state to meet its goal of transitioning from fossil fuels.

Nearly 3.48 Million customers in California have fallen behind on their monthly payments if the numbers across all the utility service territories are combined.

Executive Director at the National Energy Assistance Directors Association Mark Wolfe said, “Some of the numbers are alarming. The underlying problem is energy is very expensive in California and it’s not surprising to see people owing as much as they do.”

Out of all the customers who are behind on their bills, the ones with the highest average amount are the ones who are more than four months behind on their bills. There’s an increasing number of people who are lagging on their utility bills.

According to NEADA, nearly 16.2% of U.S. Households had missed payments on their electricity bills at the end of 2023. Higher utility bills hit low-income households more than others as energy rates will remain the same for everyone irrespective of one’s income, household size, and other things.

One of the best ways forward to reduce utility debt is to enroll in a bill assistance program. The ones who are already on several public assistance programs such as SNAP, and the Food Lunch Program, or meet certain levels qualify for the program.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) also helps customers across the country on the federal level. The LIHEAP program provides a hundred dollars to $1000 depending on their income, household size, and the due balance. LIHEAP grants are available to both renters as well as homeowners.

This year, around $4 Million in LIHEAP funding will be available to customers in San Diego. The California Public Utilities Commission announced an $11.24 Pilot program last month to help customers in specific zip codes whose bills are due from the past 90 days and run the risk of their power cut off.

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The content provided in this article draws inspiration and includes quotes from various reputable sources, including news articles, government data, and interviews. Affordable Housing 411 strives to ensure accuracy and credibility, but the information presented may be based on some external sources. We encourage readers to refer to the referenced materials for more in-depth insights and verification.

Nikolewski Rob. “Here’s how many San Diego customers are behind on their utility bills”. San Diego Union Tribune, March 10, 2024,
Here’s how many San Diego customers are behind on their utility bills – The San Diego Union-Tribune (

Last Updated: September 20, 2021