Northwest natural gas consumers can ease what is expected to be another wet, cold winter with lower retail utility bills in the coming year, the head of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) said in a year-end message on the Northwest Gas Association (NWGA) website.

“Natural gas customers can expect prices to remain stable due to a slower-than-expected economic recovery, increased supply and successful conservation efforts,” said UTC Chairman Jeff Goltz, who noted that in his state lower retail gas utility rates went into effect Nov. 1 with a 2% drop (see Daily GPI, Aug. 15, 2011).

The association attributes the stability and lower prices to technological advances in exploration and development (E&P) now manifesting themselves in the shale gas boom. “An integral part of the continental natural gas market the Pacific Northwest energy consumers are benefiting from is this extraordinary market transformation,” said the NWGA white paper “Natural Gas Supply Serving the Pacific Northwest.”

In an editorial Goltz said both weather and the economy are “unpredictable,” but for this winter his region’s gas consumers “shouldn’t have to brace [themselves] to open the monthly gas bill.”

“Natural gas is the largest source of home heating in the United States,” he said, noting that in the state of Washington 39% of the residents use gas as their main heat supply. “New technologies also are getting gas out of the ground cheaper and easier.”

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