Exelon Corp.’s Pennsylvania gas and electric utility, PECO, saw natural gas consumption fall approximately 3.3% in 2008, including a 1.4% drop in December compared to December 2007, the company said Wednesday.

PECO, which serves 490,000 gas and 1.6 million electric customers in the greater Philadelphia area, delivered 84 Bcf of natural gas and 39.5 billion kWh of electricity in 2008.

PECO blamed lower customer usage and warmer weather for the lower delivery numbers. The company delivered 12 Bcf of natural gas to its suburban customers in December. PECO directly sold 64% of the total volume in 2008; the remainder was purchased separately by large industrial customers and transported on the PECO gas distribution system.

On the electric side, PECO delivered 3.4 billion kWh in December and 39.5 billion kWh in 2008. Milder-than-normal weather, which kept consumer consumption down for summer cooling and winter heating, more than offset a 0.6% increase in sales on a weather-normalized basis.

The slumping economy may be to blame for the lower demand, and the trend is likely to continue for some time. Last week the Energy Information Administration said the economic downturn will likely lead to a 1% drop in natural gas consumption nationwide this year before gaining 0.7% again in 2010 (see Daily GPI, Jan. 14). The agency attributed a 0.7% consumption growth in 2008 to the 5.8% increase in heating degree days year-over-year.

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