Idaho regulators are anticipating making further decreases in the retail charges for natural gas in the state as they currently circulate for public comments a filing by Intermountain Gas Co. to cut retail charges by 5.3%, effective Oct. 1.

Intermountain made its request in a filing to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission earlier in August, seeking changes downward in its annual purchased gas cost adjustment (PGA) to reflect the lower wholesale gas supply prices it has been paying since that part of the retail rates were adjusted last year.

In Oregon the latest gas statistics paint a similar picture. Even before the 2008 nationwide economic recession, Oregon gas sales had begun a slide that continued for at least two years, according to energy statistics for 2010 that were released Friday by the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC).

A 10-year summary of the annual revenue and throughput for the state’s three major natural gas investor-owned utilities (IOU) show steady declines during the past five years following all time peak levels of gas sales in 2005.

In Idaho, Intermountain proposes to lower its revenue requirement by $14.4 million, or an average of 5.3%, on Oct. 1, dropping its weighted average cost of gas (WACOG) from 49.2 cents/th to 45.3 cents/th. Intermountain cited “continued weakness in the regional and national economies” as putting downward pressure on new customer growth and weather adjusted demand for gas.

“At the same time, natural gas supplies are ample and the U.S. dry gas production is at an all-time high,” said the utility, reiterating that robust supply combined with flat demand has kept gas prices “relatively lows.”

The latest request for a retail gas rate decrease in the region comes within days of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NPCC) reporting what its experts called “a fundamental shift” in the North American natural gas outlook, driven by the shale boom. NPCC said the shift promises to keep wholesale prices low for a long time to come.

In less than a year since NPCC revised its long-term power plan significant changes have occurred that the council’s staff thinks can “fundamentally alter” an array of expectations in the gas and power sectors.

The Idaho PUC said that Intermountain has attributed its PGA shift to supplies of natural gas nationwide continuing to “remain strong with production at an all-time high.”

Last year Oregon’s three gas IOUs collectively accounted for 782 million therms of gas delivered and overall sales of $905 million. Both numbers are far below the peak levels established in 2005 — 922 million therms and more than $1 billion in sales for five consecutive years until 2010.

NW Natural is by far the largest of three gas distribution utilities, accounting for 75% of all gas sales in the state last year and 82% of all gas therms delivered to end-users. The PUC publishes the annualized statistics as part of its “Statistics Book” summarizing annualized statistics on the four main industries it regulates — gas, electric, water and telecommunications.

While the sales and therm figures have been declining, the average number of gas IOU customers has increased from 690,918 in 2005 to 760,886 last year, the Oregon PUC report showed.

Spokane, WA-based Avista peaked in Oregon in 2008 with $195.6 million in gas sales and 88.8 million therms, compared with 2010 totals of $155.2 million and 78.5 million therms, respectively. Kennewick, WA-based Cascade peaked for sales in 2008 ($104 million) and for therms in 2007 (87.5 million therms), compared with its 2010 totals of $73.8 million in sales on 69.2 million therms delivered in Oregon.

It was 2007 for NW Natural’s sales peak ($896.4 million) and 2005 for its peak in therms delivered (755.2 million therms). Last year, however, the Portland, OR-based gas-only utility recorded $676.2 million in sales on 634.7 therms delivered.

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