SALEM, Ore. - Rates paid by Oregon's natural gas customers will change next month -- including a average 12 percent hike for Cascade Natural Gas customers -- due to the review that occurs every year at this time like clockwork.
Meeting Monday, the Oregon Public Utility Commission approved rate adjustments for all three of the state's natural gas companies--Northwest Natural, Avista Utilities and Cascade Natural Gas. The new rates take effect on customer's bills beginning Nov. 1.
"We are in an environment of low but slowly rising gas prices," Commission Chairman Susan Ackerman. "Each of the utilities we regulate is unique when it comes to buying and transporting natural gas. Whether your rate falls or rises this coming year depends on which utility you get your natural gas from."
With these changes, the monthly bill of a typical NW Natural residential customer using 53 therms per month will increase by $0.91 or 1.52 percent from $59.73 to $60.64. In January, a typical residential customer's consumption of 105 therms will result in a billing increase of $0.69, or 0.62 percent from $111.64 to $112.33.
With these changes, the monthly bill of a typical Avista Utilities residential customer using 48 therms per month will decrease by $3.65, or -6.3 percent, from $58.00 to $54.35. In January, a typical residential customer's consumption of 100 therms will result in a billing decrease of $7.61, or 6.7 percent, from $113.25 to $105.64.
With these changes, the monthly bill of a typical Cascade Natural Gas residential customer using 55 therms per month is expected to rise by $5.70 from $46.81 to $52.51 or 12.2 percent. In January, a typical residential customer's consumption of 135 therms will result in a billing increase of $14.01 from $110.52 to $124.53 or 12.7 percent.
Cascade's increase is relatively large but misleading, the PUC said.
The main source of the rate increase is the large reduction in a refund that is now ending. (residential customers saw a 17.3 percent decrease in rates in the current gas year, compared with the previous year, due in large part to this refund). Cascade's rates per therm are the lowest among Oregon's three natural gas companies.
The Commission reviews natural gas price once a year in the fall to keep them in line with wholesale prices. Some years prices are higher and some years they are lower. The adjustments vary from company to company due to different strategies for buying gas and other expenses such as transportation.
NW Natural serves customers in northwest Oregon. Avista Utilities serves portions of southwest and northeastern Oregon while Cascade Natural Gas serves Central Oregon in the Bend region and parts of Northeast Oregon. These companies serve about 757,000 Oregonians.
Oregon's natural gas comes through pipelines from gas fields in Canada and the Rocky Mountain region.
Customers can reduce their bill further by:
• Turning down your thermostat can save up to 3 percent for each degree. A programmable thermostat that reduces heat at night or when no one is home can lower heating bills by 5 to 10%.
• Update low-efficiency furnaces and water heaters with higher-efficiency models.
• Fully insulating your residence generally results in up to 30% savings on a heating bill.
• Clean or change the furnace filter once a month during the heating season.
• Ask for an energy audit by the utility that provides your heating. Customers of NW Natural and Cascade should arrange for an audit through the Energy Trust of Oregon. Avista Utilities conducts traditional energy audits.
• And lastly, contact your gas utility about bill payment assistance.