New, lower rates start today
If you’re an Avista natural gas customer in Washington, we’ve got good news for you as we head into the colder months of fall and winter. Beginning today and through the rest of the year, depending on your energy usage, you’ll see lower natural gas rates. That’s because last week, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved our Sept. 13 request to reduce natural gas rates in Washington by an overall 4.4 percent.
Rates for our natural gas customers in Washington and Idaho have decreased twice this year because of lower wholesale prices. Overall, natural gas rates in Washington have dropped by about 11 percent in 2012.
Today’s decreases are mostly because of lower natural gas prices. You might remember we reduced natural gas rates for Washington customers in March by 6.4 percent. Like then, abundant supplies of natural gas and lower demand have continued to push wholesale natural gas prices downward. That’s good news. Why? Because we pass those savings directly through to you through Purchased Gas Cost Adjustments, or PGAs, such as this one.
The combined costs of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and having it transported to our distribution system for delivery to you is about 55 percent of your natural gas bill – or 55 cents of every dollar you pay for natural gas.
With the new rates, if you’re a residential customer in Washington using an average of 68 therms per month, you’ll see a decrease of $2.58 starting today, for a revised monthly bill of $58.18.
If you’re a commercial customer, you can expect decreases of 5.1 percent for large general service schedule 111, 5.7 percent for extra large general service schedule 121 and 8.0 percent for interruptible sales service schedule 131.
What about rate increases?
Wondering how this decrease is related to news you’ve heard about upcoming rate increases? Recently, Avista announced a settlement with various parties in our general rate case in Washington. The settlement, if approved by the commission, would increase electric rates by 2.0%, and natural gas rates by 3.6% beginning Jan. 1, 2013. This natural gas rate change in the settlement is related to owning and operating the natural gas system, and is separate from the cost of the natural gas itself.
Even if proposed rate increases are approved and take effect in January, your natural gas rates at the beginning of 2013 will still be well below where they were at the beginning of 2012.
The good news is our customers have been seeing the benefits of increased natural gas supply and lower prices for some time. In fact, Avista pays some of the lowest wholesale natural gas prices among our utility peers in the region. It means our customers continue to have some of the lowest natural gas rates in the country.
Did you know if you’re a Washington natural gas customer, your rates are at levels similar to those from 2003, and even less when you adjust for inflation? This is mostly because of the declining prices of natural gas on the wholesale market. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, natural gas rates in both Idaho and Washington have stayed fairly level over the past 50 years.
Read more about natural gas pricing in our thee-part Avista blog series
that helps explain the three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill – wholesale gas costs, fixed transportation costs, and equipment and people.