Reassuring its customers that they will not see significantly higher natural gas prices this winter, PECO Energy said it plans to lower its current natural gas rate later this year, which would set winter prices at a “similar level” to a year ago.

The announcement was sparked by a report released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Energy, which outlined anticipated prices this winter for oil, propane and natural gas. The report stated that home heating prices could be 10% to as much as 20% more than a year ago.

Informing PECO consumers that their rates may be better than the national forecast, Reed Horting, PECO vice president, gas, said, “We’re optimistic that we can effectively manage our gas supply arrangements and lower our purchased gas rate for customers before this winter.”

The utility said it has notified the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) that it would maintain current rates this fall, then lower its gas rate by about 7% Dec. 1 — in effect, rolling back an increase that took effect in March after much higher wholesale gas prices last winter.

PECO’s current gas commodity rate, not including its delivery and other service charges, is 89.3 cents per hundred cubic feet (ccf). The company said it anticipates its Dec. 1 gas commodity rate will be about 83 cents per ccf. The total monthly bill for the typical residential heating customer (using 200 ccf) would be $229 ($1.11 per ccf plus $7.20 monthly charge).

As an electric and natural gas utility subsidiary of Exelon Corp., PECO Energy delivers natural gas to 460,000 Pennsylvania customers in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.

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