NV Energy Inc. announced last Friday that its northern Nevada utility lowered retail natural gas and electric rates effective that day. It's a continuation of a two-year downward trend in the utility's retail rates, reflecting reductions on the wholesale level.

Electric rates overall dropped by 6.73% and gas retail charges dropped 8.39% for customers in the Reno-Sparks area. With the latest decreases, power rates have gone down by a total of 19% and gas charges by 20% since January 2009, NV Energy said.

"In total, the decreases are rolling back rates to 2005 levels, which is good news for customers heading into the winter heating season," an NV Energy spokesperson said.

The latest of a series of decreases are attributable to a number of factors, according to NV Energy's analysts, but the main reasons were the completion of the utility's new, much more efficient Tracy combined-cycle generating station and declining energy market prices for both power and gas. The new Tracy plant is labeled as being one-third more efficient than conventional gas-fired generation plants, the utility spokesperson said.

"Fuel to generate electricity costs less and these savings are passed on to customers in the form of lower electric rates, and the same is true for natural gas, which the company purchases on behalf of its gas customers," the spokesperson said.

NV Energy estimates that a typical electricity customer is currently saving about $20/month, compared with rates effective in January 2009. Similarly, for the typical gas customer charges are down by about $14/month, compared with the early 2009 rates. Typical electric bills will go down from $93.31 to $87.43/month, and for natural gas the reduction is from about $63.67 to $58.58/month.

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