NARUC Receives Plaudits for Continued Recognition of Natural Gas’ Benefits

Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) commends the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) for  adopting two resolutions at their 124th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD that recognize the role natural gas can play in moving our nation forward by eliminating regulatory barriers to utilizing this clean energy source in more affordable and efficient ways.

“The development and deployment of both CHP technologies and alternative fuel vehicles are critically important to providing consumers with the best energy value now and into the future,” said Kyle Rogers, AGA’s Vice President of Government Relations. “America’s natural gas utilities work with regulators on the local and national level to achieve our shared goals of boosting our economy, improving our environment and increasing our energy security. We commend them on their continued commitment to this effort.”

In adopting a resolution in support of the deployment of combined heat and power (CHP), the NARUC board encourages state public service commissions to work with stakeholders and other agencies to support cost effective investment in CHP opportunities, explore educational opportunities and forums on CHP, and evaluate regulatory mechanisms and consider and identify ways to best deploy cost effective CHP technologies. The resolution notes that CHP provides an opportunity improve the competitiveness of United States manufacturing, lower energy costs, free up future capital for businesses to invest, reduce air pollution and create jobs.

CHP, which generates electricity and captures useful heat simultaneously, is among the most efficient heat and power generating systems available. Over 70 percent of CHP installations use natural gas.

NARUC also adopted a resolution focused on expanding the alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) market, which urges state and federal regulators to collaborate with other policymakers to remove barriers to AFV deployment, and ensure consistent, fuel-neutral policies to help realize the full economic, environmental and societal benefits of AFVs.

The resolution supports the continued development of utility company programs and policies that advance the AFV market including the installation of advanced metering technologies and control systems, designing innovative rates and incentives, and assessing transmission and distribution systems to minimize any potential risk to reliability and maximize consumer savings.

Natural Gas Term of the Week: Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

What it means: Natural gas which has been liquefied by reducing its temperature to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit at atmospheric pressure (i.e. liquefaction). In volume, it occupies 1/600 of the vapor at standard conditions, making long distance shipping feasible.

See it in action: Due to its smaller volume, LNG is useful as a storage option for natural gas should a utility need to quickly meet excess demand, such as in times of  very cold weather. A number of NWGA members operate LNG peaking facilities, Fortis BC has a good overview of their LNG storage facilities on their website.

LNG is also gaining traction as a transportation fuel, especially for long haul trucking. Its high energy gives LNG similar characteristics as conventional gasoline with fewer emissions, including up to a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases. With diesel prices currently hovering around twice the price of LNG a number of large companies are working to provide more vehicle fueling opportunities. Big industry players, GE and Clean Energy, recently announced plans to build a number of LNG fueling stations.

A Natural Gas Term of the Week is posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.  Follow the NWGA on Twitter @Ben_at_NWGA


Lower Gas Prices Mean NW Natural’s Oregon Customers Pay Less This Winter

PORTLAND, Ore. — Northwest Natural Gas Company,announced that the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (OPUC) approved a rate reduction for NW Natural gas customers.

Separately, the OPUC issued its decision earlier this week on NW Natural’s general rate case that was filed last December, increasing the company’s annual revenues from base rates by about 1 percent.

Together, these adjustments result in about a 5 percent rate reduction for residential customers and about a 6 percent reduction for commercial customers.

That means an average residential customer using 53 therms per month would see a monthly bill decrease of about $3, and an average commercial customer using 221 therms per month would see a monthly bill decrease of about $14.

“Natural gas costs have fallen steadily, in large part because of robust domestic natural gas supplies,” said Gregg Kantor, NW Natural president and CEO. “That means that over the last four years, our customers have saved about $400 million from lower gas prices.”

Each year, NW Natural and other local gas utilities adjust their rates to reflect changes in wholesale natural gas prices. The new rates reflect gas purchases for the year beginning Nov. 1. Customers will see the change on their bills starting tomorrow.

Natural Gas Utilities Activate Mutual Assistance Program In Response to Hurricane Sandy

Washington, D.C. – Safety is the top priority for the American Gas Association (AGA) and its member companies. Our hearts go out to those that have been affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Natural gas utilities throughout the country are working to help these communities with their rebuilding efforts.

American Gas Association members participate in a mutual assistance program for unprecedented disasters requiring the dedication of response, recovery and restoration resources outside the limits of existing local, state and regional mutual assistance programs. In preparation for Hurricane Sandy, and in its aftermath, more than twenty natural gas utilities have held daily calls to offer assistance and guidance to utilities and safety officials in the communities where natural gas service has been interrupted.

In New Jersey alone, there are more than 400 personnel on the ground, including crews from eight other natural gas utilities from surrounding areas. AGA staff has worked closely with the Northeast Gas Association to coordinate utility assistance to companies in need and has been in constant contact with the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and other federal and local regulators.

Clean natural gas provides one-fourth of the nation’s energy. This abundant, domestic resource is the dominant source of energy for heat and hot water in residences and businesses across this country.  The natural gas industry operates over 2.4 million miles of pipelines – the largest and safest energy delivery system in the world. Our members work with public officials, emergency responders, excavators, consumers, safety advocates and members of the public to continue to improve the industry’s longstanding record of providing natural gas service safely and effectively to more than 177 million Americans.

America’s natural gas utilities are a leading voice for safety in the pipeline industry. Our “Commitment to Enhancing Safety,” released in May, details actions that are being addressed by AGA or individual operators that go above and beyond current pipeline regulations. The industry has put in place a number of safeguards to help better detect a potential natural gas leak. For instance, utilities odorize natural gas with Mercaptan — which smells similar to rotten eggs — in order to provide an added layer of safety for leak detection purposes. In addition, all natural gas pipeline operators are required to develop and implement a pipeline safety public awareness program to help educate the public in the vicinity of a pipeline, as well as state and local emergency response personnel, public officials and excavators.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Program and the U.S. Fire Administration have provided these tips for consumers during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Lower natural gas rates for almost 2 million Washington customers

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Almost 2 million natural gas customers in Washington can expect to see lower heating bills this winter due to a decrease in wholesale natural gas costs.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) today approved requests by the state’s four investor-owned natural gas companies to reduce 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 45 percent covers the cost of delivering the natural gas.

Puget Sound Energy’s average Western Washington residential natural gas customer using 68 therms a month will realize a drop of 7.1 percent, or $5.82, to $76.59.

Cascade Natural Gas Co.’s average residential customer will see a reduction of almost 6.5 percent. For a customer who uses 57 therms the savings will be about $4 a month.

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.

The rates could be subject to further revision. Commission staff will be reviewing the wholesale costs and purchasing and hedging practices of all four natural gas companies in Washington to ensure that they are appropriate in current market conditions.

The commission decision made today 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.

Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy serves more than 785,000 natural gas customers in parts of Snohomish, King, Pierce, Lewis, Thurston and Kittitas counties.

Kennewick-based Cascade Natural Gas Corp. serves about 195,000 residential and business customers in 65 communities throughout the state, including Bellingham, Bremerton, Mount Vernon, Aberdeen, Longview, Moses Lake, Kennewick, Walla Walla, Wenatchee and Yakima.

Spokane-based Avista serves more than 149,000 natural gas customers, primarily in Eastern Washington.

Headquartered in Portland, Ore., NWNG serves 70,746 residential and business customers in Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties in Washington state.

The three-member commission is the state agency in charge of regulating the private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.

INGAA Statement: Interstate Pipeline System Holding Up Well After Hurricane Sandy

October 30, 2012 – In response to questions about how the interstate natural gas pipeline system is handling the Hurricane Sandy, Don Santa, president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, today released the following statement:

“The interstate natural gas pipeline system continues to weather the storm well. INGAA members companies are monitoring developments and their systems actively, with a focus on potential flooding or wind damage to above-ground facilities in low-lying or particularly hard-hit areas. Any potential outages are likely to be mitigated by relatively modest seasonal natural gas demand and lower electric-generation demand due to power outages.

“Sandy has been a tragic natural disaster, and the natural gas transmission industry stands ready to serve our customers throughout this event. We are appreciative of the efforts of the pipeline crews during this event.”

New Spectra Video Highlights Domestic Abundance of Natural Gas

Here’s a recently released video by NWGA Member, Spectra Energy, putting the spotlight on our abundant supply of natural gas available right here in North America.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below:

“What’s Up With Gas?” NWGA in the News

Last week NWGA Executive Director, Dan Kirschner, was the keynote speaker for a series of three community talks hosted by NWGA member, Intermountain Gas. Dan gave attendees some insight into the changing nature of the gas industry, the scale of the shale gas revolution and an overview of emerging markets such as natural gas for transportation.

If you like what you see let us know, Dan rarely turns down a speaking opportunity, he’s also available for children’s birthday parties (if your kids enjoy natural gas facts).

Here’s coverage of Dan’s presentation from Twin Falls, Idaho station, KMVT:


Customers will pay about 7.1 percent less in Intermountain Gas bills

Intermountain Gas Company customers received their sixth consecutive decrease in gas rates effective today due to a decline in the cost of gas the company buys for its customers and increased gas supply.

The decrease will come in two components: a reduction in monthly bills effective today as a result of the lower gas prices and a one-time bill credit in December.  Combined, those adjustments result in a decrease of 7.1 percent for the average customer.

The yearly Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) projects gas prices for the next 12 months and either surcharges or credits customers the difference between the projection and the actual cost. Sometimes the PGA is adjusted more than once a year if gas prices materially change.

The variable portion of customer rates is based on the Weighted Average Cost of Gas or WACOG, which makes up about half a customer bill. With this application, the WACOG drops from 41.8 cents per therm to about 33.5 cents per therm, as low as it has been since 2002. The WACOG represents about half the total customer bill, which is now about 66.8 cents per therm during the winter months and 70.2 cents from April through November for a customer who uses natural gas for both space and water heating. For that customer, the average bill will decrease by about $1.51 per month. A customer who uses natural gas for just space heating will see a decrease of about 17 cents per month. A commercial customer will see about a $6.46 per month decrease.

In addition to the $6 million price reduction as result of lower gas prices, a one-time credit totaling $11.9 million will be included on customers’ December bill.  For residential customers who use natural gas for both space and water heating the one-time credit will be about $29.85.  Residential customers who use natural gas for space heating only will receive a credit of about $19.40.  The average December credit for commercial customers is about $129.80.

The commission said the credit will help customers during a time of year when natural gas bills are highest. “Instead of embedding the value of the credit in rates throughout the coming year, the single credit method will allow customers more immediate rate relief during a time period when natural gas usage is typically nearing its peak.”

The are several other significant factors in the overall reduction: 1) $3.7 million in benefits generated by release of some pipeline transportation capacity, 2) $4.8 million attributable to the collection of pipeline capacity costs, a true-up of expenses from the 2011 PGA and capacity release credits and 3) a $1.3 million deferred credit balance, which is the difference from the commodity costs Intermountain actually paid for natural gas and the WACOG that was included in rates.

The commission did give the company authority to surcharge customers for Lost and Unaccounted for Gas, which reduced the total credit allowed customers by $2 million.

NW Natural Launches Bring the Heat Music Video Contest

Portland, OR – Today marks the launch of NW Natural’s Bring the Heat Music Video Contest. The contest runs through December and provides participants a chance to create a unique music video about the benefits of using natural gas for a chance to win one of several prizes. The grand prize is a new gas burning furnace or fireplace. Magneto Brand Advertising worked with NW Natural to develop marketing materials designed to promote the contest. Magneto’s work included naming the contest, creating its look and feel, designing promotional materials including posters and bar coasters, and shooting a fun satirical “mockumentary” style video featuring a couple making their own entry video for the contest. The posters and coaster will be distributed at selected bars and restaurants around the Portland metro area and the video can now be seen on NW Natural’s OFFERS website.