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News Release
  
Natural Gas Rates to Rise, But Not as Much as Expected
 
October 25, 2006  (2006 - 021) (UG-174, UG-175, UG-176)
 
Contacts:  Lee Beyer, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Ray Baum, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Affairs Specialist, 503 378-8962
 
Salem, OR –Rates for Oregon’s three natural gas distribution companies will increase but not by as much as previously expected. The rate hikes are in the single digit range in comparison to the previous two years in which some customers experienced double digit increases.
 
The new rates for Northwest Natural, Avista Utilities and Cascade Natural Gas take effect November 1, 2006 to reflect the higher commodity cost of natural gas compared with a year ago. The companies make no additional profit from these rate adjustments.
 
“The silver lining here is the rate increases are less than the companies predicted to us back in mid-July and are not nearly as high as we experienced the last two years,” Commission Chairman Lee Beyer said. “The lower prices are due to a combination of factors which include reduced demand, no major hurricanes to disrupt supply, and increased domestic production.”
 
  • The monthly bill for a typical Northwest Natural residential customer using 57 therms per month will increase $2.78, or 3.5%, from $79.63 to $82.41. In January, a typical residential customer’s bill using 109 therms would result in a billing increase from $146.79 to $152.12. The change for commercial and industrial customers will range from 3.8% to 6.4%.

  • With these changes, the monthly bill for a typical Cascade Natural Gas residential customer using 62 therms per month will increase $5.73, or 7.9%, from $72.34 or $78.07. In January, a typical residential customer who uses 117 therms would result in a billing increase from $133.84 to $144.67.  The change for commercial and industrial customers will range from 9.0% to 9.4%.

  • The monthly bill for a typical Avista Utility residential customer using 52 therms per month will increase $5.30, or 7.1%, from $75.06 or $80.36. In January, a typical residential customer who uses 98 therms would result in a billing increase from $137.03 to $147.03. The change for commercial and industrial customers will range from 7.9% to 8.3%.
    (*Avista’s rates are subject to refund pending the outcome of further investigation by Commission staff).
 
The Commission adjusts each company’s rates once a year to reflect the actual cost of the wholesale price of natural gas. The mechanism allows natural gas companies to pass through their actual cost of purchasing gas, without any mark-up. The adjustment also accounts for differences from the purchased cost of gas in the previous year with actual costs. 
 
Customers are encouraged to explore the following measures to reduce how much gas they use:
  • Contacting your gas company to set up an equal payment plan to spread high winter bills over a 12-month period.

  • Turning your thermostat down can save up to 3% for each degree of reduction.  A programmable thermostat that automatically reduces heat at night or while the house is unoccupied can lower heating bills by 5 to 10%.

  • Asking for an energy audit by the utility that provides your heating.  Utilities are required to provide free energy audits.  They also provide incentives such as rebates or loans available to customers.

  • Sealing gaps, leaks and small holes in ductwork account for as much as 25 percent of home heating loss.  You can get a tax credit of up to $250 for a well-designed and sealed duct system in your new home or for sealing existing ductwork.  Contractors doing the work must be certified by the Oregon Department of Energy, so call 1-800-221-8035.

  • Updating low-efficiency furnaces and water heaters with higher-efficiency models.  All three natural gas companies offer a rebate for doing so. Customers of Northwest Natural must contact the Energy Trust of Oregon at 1-866-368-7878.  Premium efficiency furnaces can also qualify for a state tax credit from the Oregon Department of Energy.  Check qualifying equipment at www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/Pages/index.aspx

  • 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.

  • Bill payment assistance information is available from all gas utilities.
 
 
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