Atmos Energy customers will likely see a spike in their natural-gas bills after April 1.
Average monthly bills in Southwest Colorado are likely to jump from about $47 to about $54 for residents and from about $194 to about $233 for commercial customers, according to projections by Atmos Energy.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission considered the company’s application for statewide increases Wednesday. Little debate was expected about the issue as increases are normally consent items on the agenda, said Terry Bote, a commission representative.
Across the state, residential and commercial bill increases will range from 12 to 20 percent.
At the high end of the spectrum, Atmos projects northeast and central Colorado will see average residential bills jump from about $62 to $71, and average commercial bills rise from $280 to $332.
The price increases for Southwest Colorado are a direct consequence of a cold winter in the Pacific Northwest, which drove high demand, said Michele Swaner, a representative for the Williams Pipeline, which delivers gas to the Four Corners.
The Williams Pipeline runs from Canada to nearly the New Mexico border and was not impacted by weather and demand for gas east of the Rockies, she said.
Atmos Energy does not make a profit on the natural gas it delivers, and it must pass along price increases dollar for dollar to the customer, said Brian Martens, a company representative.
Increasing prices now will help Atmos recover from the winter prices, and it will mitigate a spike in price Nov. 1, when rates will be set for next winter, Atmos said in its application to the state.
“It will lessen the impact,” Martens said.
Across the nation, demand for natural gas was exceptionally high, and inventories dropped below the five-year average level, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Atmos Energy cited this as one of the reasons for the price increases statewide in its application to the commission.
But the representative for Williams Pipeline said its inventory remained stable.
“We have not seen a drop-off in volumes in storage areas,” Swaner said.
If customers are struggling to pay their bills they can apply for assistance by contacting (866) HEAT-HELP or (866) 432-8435.