Avista Corp.’s natural gas customers can expect lower bills this winter as a result of dropping wholesale prices.
On Monday, the utility asked state regulators in Washington for permission to reduce rates by 20.2 percent. In Idaho, Avista requested a 17 percent rate decrease.
If the new rates are approved as expected, the average Washington household would save about $16 per month, for a monthly gas bill of $63.37. Average Idaho households would save about $12.75, for a monthly gas bill of $62.21. Washington households use an average of 70 therms of natural gas each month, while Idaho customers average slightly less.
Avista wants the new rates in place by Nov. 1.
“At the time furnaces start kicking in, these new rates will be in effect,” said Debbie Simock, an Avista spokeswoman.
As a result of falling demand and abundant supplies, natural gas prices are at their lowest levels in several years. Avista has already cut prices twice this year. If the new rates are approved, residential customers would see their natural gas rates drop to the lowest levels in six years, said Kevin Christie, Avista’s director of gas supply.
However, he cautioned that the wholesale market remains volatile, so prices could rise over the coming year.
Avista buys part of its natural gas during the spring and summer, when prices are lower, and stores the gas underground for the heating season. The Spokane-based utility serves 145,000 natural gas customers in Washington and 73,000 in Idaho.
About 75 percent of customers’ bills reflect Avista’s cost of purchasing natural gas. The remaining 25 percent reflects the utility’s delivery costs. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is considering Avista’s earlier request to raise the delivery portion of customers’ bills. A decision on that issue expected in December.