Natural gas prices on the decline

Staff Writer

Natural gas customers in Washington will see changes on their energy bills beginning Nov. 1.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission last week approved rate decreases for Avista Corp., Cascade Natural Gas, NW Natural, and Puget Sound Energy natural gas customers.
Natural gas companies are required to submit Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) filings at least every 15 months to adjust rates based on the constantly changing cost of natural gas in the wholesale market. The total cost of gas is passed on to customers, which means companies do not profit from or lose money on gas purchases.
The variation in total gas rates among Washington’s investor-owned utilities is due to regional differences in monthly residential usage, conservation and energy efficiency programs, low-income program costs, and gas purchasing practices.
The average bill for a typical Avista residential natural gas customer in Eastern Washington using 65 therms will fall by 10.5 percent, or $5.37 a month, for an average monthly bill of $45.85.
Rate changes for Avista are due to PGA and a revenue decoupling mechanism. Decoupling allows utility revenues to be “decoupled” from sales, so the utility’s recovery of fixed costs does not depend on the volume of its energy sales. Instead, revenue is determined on a per-customer basis. This mechanism removes a company’s financial disincentive to invest in conservation and energy efficiency.
Spokane-based Avista serves nearly 160,000 natural gas customers in Eastern Washington.