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News Release
Natural Gas Rates Drop for Most Oregon Consumers
October 30, 2007 (2007-016) (UG-177, UG-178, UG-179)
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 –The Oregon Public Utility Commission passed along rate decreases to customers of Northwest Natural and Avista Natural Gas while customers of Cascade Natural gas will see rates go up by less than 1%. The adjustments take effect Nov. 1, 2007.
“After several years of higher prices, I’m encouraged we are now in a position to be able to reduce rates for the coming year,” Commission Chairman Lee Beyer said.  
The monthly bill of a typical NW Natural residential customer using 56 therms per month will decrease by $6.50, or 8.0%, from $81.07 to $74.57.  In January, a typical residential customer’s consumption of 112 therms would result in a billing decrease from $156.14 to $143.14. 
For Avista, with these changes, the monthly bill of a typical residential customer using 51 therms per month will decrease by $1.02, or 1.3%, from $78.91 to $77.89.  In January, a typical residential customer’s consumption of 98 therms would result in a billing decrease from $147.03 to $145.06
The monthly bill of a typical Cascade residential customer using 60 therms per month will increase by $0.59, or 0.8 percent, from $74.94 to $75.53.  In January, a typical residential customer’s consumption of 113 therms would result in a billing increase from $138.49 to $139.60. 
Each year the Commission adjusts each company’s rates 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. 
A number of factors have led to lower prices and reduced volatility for 2007:
  • The winter of 2006-2007 was generally mild; no great demand was placed on existing natural gas supply;
  • No major supply interruptions have occurred to date; the hurricane season has been mild and uneventful;
  • The prices of natural gas and oil have generally de-linked—rising oil prices are not currently carrying natural gas price along.
While rates will be lower for most customers next year, the Commission says customers should still consider reducing how much gas they use:
  • 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. Customers of NW Natural and Cascade should arrange for an audit through the Energy Trust of Oregon for information about audits and incentives on recommended measures. 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.  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 for qualifying furnaces at Furnaces and for qualifying water heaters at Water Heaters.
  • 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.