Regulators approve lower natural gas rates for Puget Sound Energy

October 26, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 6 a.m. Oct. 26, 2012

Puget Sound Energy customers can expect to pay less for natural gas as winter approaches.

The average residential natural gas customer using 68 therms per month is due to receive a 7.1 percent — or $5.82 — drop, after state regulators approved the change Thursday. The revised rate goes into effect Nov. 1.

The average residential natural gas customer should pay $76.59 under the revised rate. The rate is comparable to what PSE customers paid in 2009.

The utility provider for Issaquah and much of Western Washington asked state regulators last month to decrease natural gas rates. The wholesale price for natural gas is down due to abundant domestic supplies.

In the Puget Sound region, electric heating for a home is more expensive than natural gas heat.

The rate could be subject to further revision. State Utilities and Transportation Commission staffers intend to review the wholesale costs, and purchasing and hedging practices, of PSE and other utilities to ensure market conditions match the cost and practices.

The purchased gas adjustment mechanism approved by state regulators allows natural gas utilities to periodically adjust rates, up or down, to reflect changes in the price of natural gas purchased and delivered to customers.

PSE does not profit or lose money on the cost of natural gas purchased for customers.

Overall, more than half to about two-thirds of customers’ monthly bills is attributable to the cost of natural gas on which the utility is not allowed to earn a profit. The remaining 45 percent covers the cost of delivering the natural gas.

The utilities distribute natural gas to customers but do not produce the fuel. Statewide, about half of natural gas used in Washington comes from Alberta and British Columbia, and the other half from Rocky Mountain production sites, such as Wyoming.

Bellevue-based PSE serves more than 785,000 natural gas customers in Western Washington, including Issaquah.

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