Watch for your January Columbia Gas bill. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved the application filed by Columbia Gas to increase the fee it charges customers to deliver the natural gas to your home. This is called a service and delivery charge.
In the past, you would be charged a base $6.50/month, plus a fee for every 100 cubic feet you consumed, which will be referred to as ccf throughout this column. If you use a lot, Columbia Gas makes more for service and delivery. If you conserved and tried not to use too much natural gas, then Columbia Gas didn't get to make as much money off of you. So, if you are one of those pioneers who can live with an indoor temperature between 55 and 62 degrees in the winter, you probably didn't pay much in terms of service and delivery charges for piping the natural gas to your house.
In case you haven't been following the news, your January heating bill service and delivery charge will change. Customers are going to be charged a flat fee. So if you use a little natural gas or a lot, we all pay the same flat fee for the service and delivery of natural gas.
Let me put this into perspective. Prior to this year, a customer was charged a flat monthly fee and a fee based on your consumption. This flat fee covered the cost of meter reading, billing and customer service. Then you were charged another fee based on how much natural gas you consumed each month. This volume based fee covered the cost of things like installing, maintaining and repairing the pipeline system, according to PUCO.
According to the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, the customer will see their flat monthly fee go from $6.50/month to $12.16/month this year. The fee you pay based on the volume of natural gas used will still be there this year, but it will be reduced compared to what you had been paying. Then in 2010, the flat monthly fee will go to $17.81/month and the fee charged based on the volume of natural gas consumed will be eliminated.
Let me use one of my gas bills to make give this news some practical application. From May 15 to June 15, I consumed 4 ccfs of natural gas. (I have a natural gas stove and I cook. I make a mean lentil loaf with green bean casserole, too.) My natural gas consumption was $4.24 for the 4 ccfs of natural gas. I was also charged $7.20 for delivering those four ccfs to my house, totaling $11.44.
My winter heating bill for Nov. 14 to Dec. 17 $57.41 for the 52 ccfs of natural gas that I used to keep my house at 72 degrees 24 hours/day, seven days per week. Then, I was charged $17.77 for service and delivering those 52 ccfs.
Come this summer, I will pay roughly $4.36 for the 4 ccfs of natural gas that I will use May 15 to June 18. Then, I will also pay $12.16 for the monthly flat fee, totaling $16.52 this year. Come 2010, that summer bill will be $21.17 (I am assuming don't have to pay more than $1.03 ccf for the natural gas.) And in 201, that summer heating bill for 4 ccfs of natural gas will be $23.86.
For this winter, assuming all other variables remain the same as in 2008, my Nov. 14 to Dec. 17 natural gas bill will be roughly $57.41 for 52 ccfs of natural gas, and the flat fee will be $12.16/month, totaling $69.57. Come 2010, that November/December natural gas bill will be $75.22, and in 2011 the November/December. natural gas bill will be $76.91.
It may interest you to know that this will generate $ 47.1 million, annually, for Columbia Gas. As part of the rate increase deal, Columbia Gas will upgrade the natural gas infrastructure and funding some energy conservation incentives for customers of any income bracket; and financial assistance to low-income customers who are having difficulty affording home heating. I'm still working on getting the details on how these benefits will work.