Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy’s Colorado utility retail natural gas bills in May should be 38% lower than this month overall — 39% lower for residential customers and 45% lower for small businesses than they were last May, the utility holding company said last Friday. The commodity rate in May 2008 was three times higher than what is projected for this May, Xcel said.

With expected warmer weather driving down gas use, typical May 2008 bills were a little more than $42, which would be 39%, or $16.50 more than the projected bills for next month, adjusted for expected average current use of 31 therms, Xcel said. Warmer weather also is expected to result in a 40% decrease in use in May for typical small business customers when compared to this month. Bills in May could decrease 38% to just a little more than $113, compared to average bills this month for the same customers of $183, using on average more than 100 more therms.

Xcel has proposed revised commodity prices to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for residential and small business customers, projecting a 10% drop next month to 28.96 cents/therm, compared to the current price of 32.21 cents/therm. By comparison, last May the price was 84.52 cents/therm.

The change reflects anticipated natural gas prices and impact on customer bills for this May, Xcel said. If approved by the PUC, the new natural gas commodity price would take effect May 1.

Xcel’s analysis showed that natural gas prices continued to decrease in March and early April, “despite strengthening crude oil prices, which have risen since late February as the oil market absorbs the impact of OPEC production cuts amid a more optimistic perception of global oil demand.”

Energy Information Administration statistics for the week ending April 3 showed natural gas storage levels up substantially compared to last year and to the five-year average, Xcel said. “The Nymex Henry Hub price trend generally has been lower since the April 2009 natural gas commodity costs were calculated. The drop in Nymex prices have been driven by a bleak, near-term consumption outlook and storage inventories that are significantly above normal for this time of year.”

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