It won’t be enough to fuel a wild spending spree, but Puget Sound Energy customers will see their natural gas bills fall by a few bucks starting next month.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission on Wednesday approved PSE’s request to reduce natural gas rates by 13 percent as of Oct. 1.
For the typical household using a year-round average of 68 therms a month, that means a drop in the monthly bill of $11.27, to $82.12.
“I’m pleased that ratepayers will benefit from lower natural gas prices,” Commissioner Pat Oshie said in a written statement after the rate approval. “I only wish I could guarantee that these wholesale prices will stay low in the future.”
Once a year, the commission adjusts rates to reflect the change in wholesale natural-gas costs. The utility companies are not allowed to earn a profit on increases in the price of the gas itself.
In recent years, that annual adjustment has resulted in larger bills. In fact, this is the first decrease for Puget Sound Energy’s natural gas customers in five years.
PSE is the largest natural gas provider in the state, serving more than 721,000 customers in most of Snohomish County and parts of five other counties.
Cascade Natural Gas, which serves Arlington, Stanwood, Oak Harbor and surrounding areas, intends to ask for a rate decrease to take effect Nov. 1, said Jon Stoltz, a vice president for the company.
A relatively calm hurricane season in the U.S., along with more imports and production of natural gas, replaced factors that drove up natural gas prices during the past couple autumns. Wholesale prices have risen recently, but utilities such as PSE usually have already made their gas purchases for the upcoming winter or at least locked in prices for the coming season.
The Energy Information Administration said U.S. demand for natural gas is expected to rise by 4.5 percent this year, but slow next year. And as of last week, the amount of stored natural gas was running 8 percent above the average amount stored at this time during the past five years.
Reporter Eric Fetters: 425-339-3453 or email@example.com.