If the recent cold snap has your furnace running constantly, take heart. Local residents could get a modest break on their heating bills this winter from lower natural gas prices.
Wholesale gas prices have dropped throughout the fall, prompting Avista to file a second request with state regulators to lower rates for customers.
The Spokane-based utility is seeking to reduce residential natural gas rates by 6.3 percent in Washington and by 6.4 percent in Idaho, effective Jan. 26. Rates also dropped slightly Nov. 1.
“We know our customers see higher bills as the weather gets colder, and we want to pass these price decreases on to them as quickly as we can,” Dennis Vermillion, Avista’s president, said in a news release.
Wholesale gas prices and the cost of delivering the gas to Avista’s distribution system account for about 40 percent of customers’ bills. As wholesale prices fluctuate, Avista asks state regulators for permission to adjust rates up or down.
High levels of natural gas production and large amounts in storage heading into the winter heating season led to the current decline in wholesale prices.
Public utility commissions in both Washington and Idaho still must approve the rate decreases. If approved as proposed, a typical Washington household using 65 therms of gas per month would pay $3.67 less per month, for a revised bill of $52.80.
In Idaho, a typical household using 63 therms of gas per month would pay $2.32 less per month, for a revised bill of $50.29. The adjusted bill includes an increase in base rates for Idaho customers, which took effect Monday.
Avista also is seeking higher electric and gas base rates for Washington customers, which is pending before the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission. The base rate is the part of the bill that covers expenses not related to wholesale power costs, including equipment and personnel.
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