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WA, ID natural gas rates reduced to 2003 levels   


Today, Avista announced that it has requested a significant reduction in natural gas rates in Washington and Idaho. We’ve been buying gas at lower costs since the wholesale natural gas market is down and we’re passing on the savings to customers.

If approved, residential and small commercial Washington customers should expect to see a rate decrease of 20.2 percent, while Idaho residential customers should see a decrease of 17 percent on Nov. 1.

These are the lowest natural gas prices since 2003. If approved, this would be the third time in 2009 that we’ve lowered gas prices. If this is approved, Washington and Idaho rates will have been reduced by about 25 percent since the beginning of the year.

For you numbers folks - if you’re a residential customer in Washington using an average of 70 therms per month you’re looking at a $16.08 savings per month. In Idaho if you use 66 therms on average, you would save $12.74 per month.

If you are on Comfort Level Billing (which I recommend), you will see a reduction in your monthly payment, equal to the dollar amount of the rate decrease for your usage.

What is actually being lowered?
Right now, the price of natural gas makes up 75 percent of your natural gas bill. The remaining 25 percent goes to getting the gas to you – equipment and people needed to provide safe, reliable service. With this request we’re passing along the savings in the cost of gas (in that 75 percent). This type of request is called a Purchase Gas Adjustment (PGA).

So, I’m anticipating this question too – its 80 degrees outside today, why are you lowering rates now? Can’t you do it in the winter when I use natural gas a lot for heating? Good question. Since we are a regulated utility, the utility commissions in each state have to approve any change to the prices you pay – up or down. We’ve requested an effective date of Nov. 1, right before it really starts to get cold. Like I said above, this would be the third reduction this year and although you likely use way less natural gas in the summer months, you’re probably still taking showers or washing clothes or cooking with natural gas – so the savings are good anytime.

Here’s another question you might be asking. I heard on the news that you raised rates - didn’t you? On Sept. 4 we announced that we’ve come to a partial settlement agreement with all parties in our general rate case in Washington. That’s everyone who has a stake in the case. Customers have a number of parties representing them, including the Washington Attorney General’s Public Counsel Office. The agreement (which concerns that 25 percent of your bill mentioned above) settled some major issues, but the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is still the final decision-maker on rate prices. The WUTC has until late December to issue a ruling. I wrote about the Washington rates case here; check out, “Transparency in action - Why did I get an insert with my bill?” 

In Idaho, our general rate case was settled in June with a two percent increase in natural gas (which was offset by a PGA reduction), and a less than two percent increase in electric rates. Read my post, “What Idaho’s electric and natural gas rate settlement means.” This became effective August 1.

I’ll continue to update this blog with additional information about rates and other happenings at Avista. If you have any questions or comments drop us a line in the comments section.
Posted by  System Account  on  9/14/2009
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