The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) on Thursday approved requests by the state’s four investor-owned natural gas companies, including Avista Utilities, to reduce heating rates for customers beginning Nov. 1.
Natural gas companies in Washington are required to adjust rates periodically to reflect changes in wholesale prices. More than half to about two-thirds of a customer’s monthly bill is attributable to the cost of natural gas on which the company is not allowed to earn a profit.
The remaining 33 to 45 percent of the monthly bill covers the cost of delivering the natural gas.
Avista’s typical Eastern Washington residential customer using 68 therms will see a drop of 4.3 percent, or $2.58 a month, for a revised bill of $58.18.
The average residential customer of southwest Washington’s Northwest Natural Gas Co. (NWNG) using 55 therms will see a savings of about 7.7 percent, or $4.82 a month.
All four utilities may see adjustments to the new rates. UTC staff will review wholesale costs and purchasing and hedging practices of the four firms to insure they are appropriate in current market conditions.
The commission decision on Avista’s natural gas rate request is separate from the general rate case filed by the company in April. The UTC is expected to make a final decision in that proceeding next March.
The utilities distribute natural gas to customers but do not produce their own fuel. About half of Washington’s natural gas supplies come from the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia and the other half from Rocky Mountain production sites such as Wyoming.
Avista serves more than 149,000 natural gas customers, primarily in Eastern Washington.