appliance-2257_640.jpg

After many years of rate decreases related to wholesale natural gas costs, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved a rate increase for natural gas customers of the three regulated utilities – Avista Utilities, Cascade Natural Gas Company, and NW Natural – which go into effect November 1, 2019.

In part, rates will increase because the cost of natural gas supply spiked over the last year due to a pipeline explosion last winter, which impacted regional gas supply and caused prices to increase. The PUC approves adjustments to each company’s rates annually to reflect changes in the actual cost of wholesale priced natural gas, known as the Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA). This allows companies to pass through their actual cost of purchasing gas to customers without a markup on the price. Since 2009, Oregon residents have benefitted from a decrease in natural gas rates due to the PGA, except 2013 and 2014.


For Avista, the adjusted rates also reflect the result of a general rate case filed with the PUC seeking additional revenues to cover non-gas costs. That adjustment will not appear in customer bills until January 15, 2020.

In response to the public comments received at the meeting to decide the Purchased Gas Adjustment, PUC Chair Megan Decker said, “We appreciate the members of the public and the Jackson County Fuel Committee for reminding us of the impact that our decisions have on customers of the utilities we regulate. We recognize that existing low-income programs are inadequate at meeting the needs of all customers to help address adjustments in rates, but we’ll continue to find ways to close that gap.”

The impact for each regulated natural gas company and specific customer categories is detailed, below.

Avista Utilities

The PUC approved an overall increase of $8.467 million, or 10.0 percent for Avista customers for the PGA annual filing when compared to 2018 company gross revenues. This adjustment is effective November 1, 2019. Additionally, the PUC recently approved a $3.616 million, or 2.5 percent increase for non-gas costs in a general rate proceeding. This adjustment is effective January 15, 2020. The combined result of these two decisions is an increase in customer rates as indicated below:

  • Residential Customers – The monthly bill of a typical customer using an average of 46 therms per month will increase by $7.30, or 15.2 percent, from $48.11 to $55.41.
  • Commercial Customers – The monthly bill of a typical customer using an average of 197 therms per month will increase by $20.51, or 11.8 percent, from $174.15 to $194.66.
  • Industrial Customers – The monthly bill of a typical customer using an average of 3,990 therms per month will increase by $269.49, or 16.4 percent, from $1,640.57 to $1,910.06.

Cascade Natural Gas

The PUC approved an overall increase of $5.3 million, or 8.5 percent for Cascade Natural customers for the PGA annual filing when compared to 2018 company gross revenues.

  • Residential Customers – The monthly bill of a typical customer using 62 therms per month will increase by $3.89, or 8.3 percent, from $46.69 to $50.58.
  • Commercial Customers – The monthly bill of a typical customer using 264 therms per month will increase by $17.96, or 11.5 percent, from $156.73 to $174.69.
  • Industrial Customers – The monthly bill of a typical customer using 1,748 therms per month will increase by $135.50, or 13.8 percent, from $983.63 to $1,119.13.

NW Natural

The PUC approved an increase of $15.142 million, or 2.4 percent for NW Natural customers for the PGA annual filing when compared to 2018 company gross revenues.

  • Residential Customers – The monthly bill of a typical customer using 54 therms per month will increase by $2.31, or 4.4 percent, from $52.43 to $54.74.
  • Commercial Customers – The monthly bill of a typical customer using 235 therms per month will decrease by $4.60, or negative 2.3 percent, from $197.95 to $193.35
  • Industrial Customers – The monthly bill of a typical customer using 5,438 therms per month will increase by $555.82, or 3.2 percent, from $17,324.09 to $17,879.91.

Customers may realize additional savings by:

  • Turning down thermostats to 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 percent.
  • Updating low-efficiency furnaces and water heaters with higher-efficiency models.
  • Fully insulating homes to realize up to 30 percent savings on a heating bill.
  • Cleaning or changing the furnace filter once a month during the heating season.
  • Conducting an online Home Energy Review through the Energy Trust of Oregon.
  • Asking their natural gas service provider about bill payment assistance programs.

 

NW Natural serves nearly 670,000 customers in northwest Oregon. Avista Utilities serves just over 104,000 customers in portions of southwest and northeastern Oregon. Cascade Natural Gas serves more than 75,000 customers in the Bend region and parts of Northeast Oregon.

Advertisements