Xcel expects 31 percent decrease in February natural gas bills | PostIndependent.com

Xcel expects 31 percent decrease in February natural gas bills

Good news for Garfield County Xcel Energy customers: Your natural gas bill could drop in February.

Minneapolis-based Xcel, which provides natural gas to Rifle and the surrounding area in Garfield County, announced last week that it is proposing a 21 percent decrease in February natural gas commodity prices. The company also said in a press release that it is expecting a decrease in natural gas usage.

The bottom line: The company is projecting a 31 percent decrease in “typical” residential customers’ gas bills and a 35 percent decrease for typical small business customers.

That doesn’t necessarily mean your bill will drop that much.

“It all depends on their usage,” said Denver-based Xcel spokesman Tom Henley, adding that “the price of natural gas has been dropping.”

Xcel is a “market taker,” not a “market maker,” meaning that it doesn’t produce natural gas but distributes it from producers and wholesalers to the market, he said. That way, the company generally passes lower prices on to the consumer, he said.

Xcel files a monthly gas cost adjustment with the Public Utilities Commission, allowing rates to fluctuate with the wholesale cost of natural gas.

The company’s price decrease must still be approved by the PUC. If approved, the new prices would take effect Feb. 1, according to the press release.

Natural gas consumers in the Roaring Fork Valley won’t likely see the same price decreases as those in other parts of the county because the valley’s gas provider, Houston-based Kinder Morgan, estimates its rates annually, not monthly like Xcel, said Kinder Morgan spokesman Rick Rainey.

He said that natural gas rates remain consistent with the company’s projects through this winter, despite any dip in gas prices.

“We don’t see a need to go in and change the rate,” he said, calling Xcel’s change in rates a “function of market volatility.”

There may be a time to alter those rates mid-year, he said.

“If there’s enough of a change, we’d file an interim rate,” he said.

Kinder Morgan serves about 14,000 in the Roaring Fork Valley.

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