A natural gas meter in Salem (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
Salem residents will pay more for natural gas starting Nov. 1 due to the state’s annual rate change.
The Oregon Public Utility Commission recently approved an increase in natural gas rates for customers of NW Natural, the only natural gas utility serving Salem customers.
The average Salem resident will see a 13.2% increase in their natural gas bill. That's around $7.50 more per month, from $57 to $64.50, according to a Wednesday news release by the commission.
Commercial customers in Salem on average will see a 17.3% increase of around $36 to their monthly natural gas bill from around $209 to $245, the commission’s news release said. The average industrial customer's bill will increase by around $594 – or 20.4% – from around $2,910 to $3,504.
The commission every year adjusts the rates of Oregon’s three regulating gas companies to reflect changes in the actual cost of wholesale-priced natural gas and allow companies to avoid a markup added to the price of supplying gas to customers.
The increase is a result of the commission approving a $81.3 million revenue increase for NW Natural compared to 2020, which was “largely due to significant weather-related events and the increase in natural gas prices worldwide.”
Around half of U.S. households use natural gas for heating and will spend over 30% more doing so on average this winter compared to last, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“But we’re fortunate that because of the storage capabilities in our local system, NW Natural’s customers won’t see those higher national averages that are being reported,” Stefanie Week, a spokesperson for NW Natural, wrote in an email.
NW Natural customers may also get a one-time bill credit in February amounting to around $35 credit for average residential customers and around $165 credit for average small-commercial customers. “These bill credits are a result of the company’s efficient pipeline and gas storage management from the past year,” Week said in an email.
The commission said customers should be more energy efficient and save money on energy bills by turning down thermostats to save up to 3% for each degree, upgrading low-efficiency furnaces and water heaters to more efficient models, fully insulating homes to save up to 30% on a heating bill, cleaning or changing the furnace filter once a month during the heating season or conducting an online Home Energy Review through Energy Trust of Oregon to assess their homes’ current energy use.
Programmable thermostats that lower heat at night or when nobody is home can lower heating bills by 5-10%, the commission's news release said.
Customers that need help making past-due payments can contact customer service at NW Natural to discuss options, according to a NW Natural news release issued Wednesday.