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    PNG rates in NC to fall in FebruaryPiedmont Natural Gas rates in NC to fall in February

    February 1, 2023 - JOHN DEEMjdeem@wsjournal.com


      After a spike in January bills tied to a frigid December, Piedmont Natural Gas customers in North Carolina will get a break starting in February.

      The N.C. Utilities Commission has approved a reduction in PNG rates that the Charlotte-based company says will save the average customer $14 per month.

      PNG said Tuesday that falling natural gas prices - driven higher in 2022 by the war in Ukraine, Europe's ban on Russian fuel and increased exports from the U.S. - led to its request for lower rates.

      The average North Carolina customer experienced an $11 monthly increase early last year.

      "We're happy the downward trend in the cost of natural gas allows us to provide some relief during the winter months, when increased usage driven by colder temperatures often results in higher bills," said PNG President Sasha Weintraub.

      The company said it requests periodic rate adjustments to reflect fluctuations in the market price of the natural gas it buys for its customers. By law, Piedmont does not mark up the cost of natural gas and must pass through the actual cost on a dollar-for-dollar basis to customers.

      "Even with these cost reductions, we recognize there are customers who may continue to struggle with paying their bills, and we encourage customers to apply for assistance, enroll in our Equal Payment Plan and implement energy-saving tips to help take control of their natural gas bills," added Weintraub.

      The EEP allows customers to pay the same amount every month and avoid bill surprise when usage is especially high.

      That was the case in January, when customers opened their bills for what turned out to be the seventh-coldest December of this century in the Triad, according to National Weather Service records.

      "We did experience some very low temperatures in December, particularly right around the holidays, and that does tend to be the greatest factor when it comes to higher bills," PNG spokesman Jason Wheatley said in an email Tuesday.

      Overnight lows in the Triad from Dec. 23-26 ranged from 5 (just 1 degree off the record for Dec. 24) to 13. The normal low for that period is 30 degrees.

      The overall average temperature in the Triad for the most recent December was slightly less than 40, which is about 3 degrees below normal for this century.

      The fact that the average Triad temperature for November 2022 was 52 - about 2 degree above normal - also likely made the charges for December even more of a shock.

      PNG offered these tips for limiting natural gas use:

      Set your thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting. Installing a "smart" or programmable thermostat will also help reduce energy use while you are asleep or away from home.Leave drapes or blinds open during sunny winter days to allow the sun to warm the house. Close them at night to help insulate your home.Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes a heating system work harder and use more energy.Set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees or consider installing an on-demand or "tankless" water heater that only heats water when you need it.Make sure the air ducts from your furnace and central air conditioner are properly sealed. Ducts that leak into the attic or crawl space can substantially increase heating and cooling bills.Caulk, seal and weatherstrip all seams, cracks and openings to the outside of your home.Consider whether you should add insulation to your ceilings, floors and walls.

      John Deem covers climate change and the environment in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina. His work is funded by a grant from the 1Earth Fund and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.336-727-7204


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