Low natural gas prices have kept more of the nation’s gas utility customers connected this year, according to a report Friday from the American Gas Association (AGA), the trade association of gas distribution companies.
Utility disconnects fell more than 8% while customers have been saving billions of dollars on their monthly energy bills, AGA concluded from a recent survey of its member companies. Data from gas utilities around the nation showed disconnects fell 8.2%, the number of customers behind in paying their monthly bills was “stable” at 18%, and the amount owed in unpaid charges had decreased by 14.8%.
“Fewer customers were disconnected from utility service in April this year, compared to the prior year as many customers could pay at least part of what they owed,” AGA said. “Yet a large percentage of customers still have problems paying all of what they owe.”
AGA said several factors contributed to the improvement, including gas prices this past winter being lower than the previous winter season. Also cited was “an improving economy,” along with federal, state and utility company assistance with energy efficiency and monthly bill-paying assistance programs.
But with 18% of the gas utility customers at least 30 days late paying their bills and more than 2% disconnected from service, AGA acknowledged that many customers were still having trouble even in today’s low-gas price environment.
On a macro basis, AGA cited national statistics that show that lower domestic gas prices have led to saving of almost $35 billion for residential gas customers during the past three years. Households are spending on average $654 less annually for space and water heating, cooking and clothes drying combined.
Prices for natural gas this winter were nearly 2% lower compared to the year before, according to Energy Information Administration data.
AGA CEO Dave McCurdy said gas is playing “a key role in rebuilding our nation’s economy,” and he thinks the continuing low prices for fuel are creating jobs, citing the recent boost in the manufacturing and chemical industries.
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