Public Service Commission urges consumers to continue efficiency efforts
by Wyoming Public Service Commission
November 13, 2008
The Wyoming Public Service Commission has revised estimates for natural gas cost increases for the coming winter heating season. Based on current approved rates, some Wyoming natural gas consumers can expect winter bills very close to those of last year, while others will see increases of up to 40% due to increased wholesale natural gas prices. The current estimated statewide average increase for residential natural gas consumers is 26%. The PSCís current estimate is down from the previously expected 50%-70% increase in natural gas utility bills for the coming winter heating months.
"The state of the national economy and high natural gas storage levels have contributed to falling wholesale natural gas prices, and those lower prices are reflected in the rates we expect to see this winter," said Christopher Petrie, Commission Chief Counsel. "The expected increase is less than we estimated in mid-summer, but most Wyoming natural gas customers will still see higher bills that last year, and it is important that consumers continue to weatherize and make energy efficient choices as we enter the winter months. Itís tempting to breathe a sigh of relief now that we see lower prices, but the volatile history of the natural gas markets tells us it would be foolish to expect persistent low prices."
Wholesale natural gas prices, or "well head" prices, were fully deregulated in the early 1990ís, and the reliance on market forces has produced periodic spikes in natural gas prices. Extreme weather, supply disruptions, world events, and changes in the overall economic outlook can cause rapid and unexpected price fluctuations. Most experts expect natural gas prices to continue to trend up in the longer term, and the best defense for the average consumer is increased energy efficiency. "Natural gas is a very volatile commodity, and when the wholesale prices suddenly rise, the PSC and utilities have limited ability to protect consumers," Petrie said, "Consumersí best long-term option is to take reasonable steps to use less without sacrificing safely or comfort."
Installing energy-efficient appliances and furnaces, replacing furnace filters regularly, using energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), calking and weather stripping windows and doors, closing heat vents in unused rooms; washing laundry in cold water; and using a programmable thermostat or turning the heat down a few degrees can lead to significant savings.
For additional tips on how to save energy usage through energy efficient measures, contact your utility or visit the PSCís website at http://psc.state.wy.us.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Petrie at 307-777-7427, cell 307-640-1643.