Printed on: September 28, 2013

Natural gas bills rising as power plant demand grows

By ROCKY BARKER
Idaho Statesman

Your gas bill is going up; in part because demand from natural gas-fired electric plants has driven up the price.

It's still inexpensive compared to before 2005, but the price hike approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission is the first since 2008. Intermountain Gas serves 320,000 customers throughout southern Idaho, including customers in eastern Idaho.

For customers who use natural gas for home and water heating, the increase is about $1.85 per month.

For customers who use natural gas for space heating only, the average monthly increase is 68 cents.

For commercial customers, the increase is about $14.18 per month, the PUC said in a news release.

The rate hike comes from the annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment based on the changing costs of natural gas supply, transportation and storage. Intermountain Gas earnings do not increase because of the cost adjustment.

Last year the price dropped 7.1 percent. The big drop came in 2009 at 22 percent.

Northwest Pipeline raised its price to transport the gas, and the uptick in the economy and increased demand drove up the gas price. The huge increase in supply from the tapping of shale gas reserves with fracking is holding the price down.

Over the long term, the big uncertainty is whether the U.S. will allow the natural gas industry to export the nation's natural gas bounty. The gas industry says it will increase jobs and drilling, but critics say by keeping prices low here it can attract manufacturers back to our shores.