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News Release
 
Commission Adjusts Oregon Natural Gas Company Rates  
 
October 24, 2008 (2008-028) (UG-185, UG-182, UG-183)
 
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, Ore. Customers of NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas will see their natural gas bills increase this fall while customers of Avista Utilities will see their bills drop as a result of an annual adjustment by the Oregon Public Utility Commission related to wholesale natural gas prices.
 
NW Natural residential rates will increase by 14.3%, Cascade by 5.4.%, and Avista Utilities will fall by 2.9% effective November 1, 2008.
 
The Commission approves adjustments to each of the company’s rates once a year to reflect the actual cost of the wholesale price of natural gas. This allows natural gas companies to pass through their actual cost of purchasing gas. There is no markup of the price.
 
The difference in the companies’ natural gas adjustments is due to different strategies for buying their natural gas supplies.
 
 “This summer it was looking like the increase for NW Natural could be as high as 40%. Even at 14%, this will be difficult for many households to absorb given other economic pressures they are already facing,” Commission Chairman Lee Beyer said. “This makes it more important than ever to use energy wisely from turning the thermostat down a few degrees to contacting the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO) for an energy evaluation.”
 
With these changes, the monthly bill of a typical NW Natural residential customer using 56 therms of gas per month will increase by $10.67, from $74.57 to $85.24.  In January, when bills are typically higher, a residential customer using 109 therms of gas will result in a billing increase from $139.47 to $160.24. 
 
The monthly bill of a typical Cascade residential customer using 59 therms of gas per month will increase by $4.00, from $74.32 to $78.32.  In January, a typical residential customer’s consumption of 113 therms of gas will result in a billing increase from $139.60 to $147.25. 
 
The monthly bill of a typical Avista residential customer using 53 therms of gas per month will decrease by $2.32, from $80.07 to $77.75.  In January, a typical residential customer’s consumption of 100 therms will result in a billing decrease from $146.19 to $141.38. 
 
Factors affecting wholesale prices for 2008:
 
  • The winter of 2007-2008 was generally mild, which decreased demand;
  • Gas storage remains high, but lower than this time last year;
  • Domestic gas supplies are increasing.
 
The Commission urges customers to consider reducing how much gas they use by:
 
  • Turning your thermostat down can save up to 3% for each degree.  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. Customers of NW Natural and Cascade should arrange for an audit through the Energy Trust of Oregon.  Avista Utilities conducts traditional energy audits.
  • 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.  Rebates are available from the Energy Trust of Oregon for NW Natural and Cascade customers and from Avista for its customers.
 
  • Premium-efficiency furnaces can also qualify for a state tax credit from the Oregon Department of Energy.  Check for qualifying  Furnaces and for qualifying  Water Heaters.
  • Fully insulating your residence generally results in up to 30% savings on a heating bill.
  • It’s also advised to clean or change the furnace filter once a month during the heating season.
  • And lastly, contact your gas utility about bill payment assistance.
 
Additional information can be found at Energy Saving Tips.
 
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