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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Piedmont Gas seeks 11.7% rate increase despite low prices

Piedmont Natural Gas has requested a base rate hike that would increase customers bills by an average of 11.7% in the first year.

The Charlotte-based natural gas company, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, proposed the increase to help recoup its costs of complying with federal safety regulations and building infrastructure to meet increasing energy demand.

“Many of these investments were required for us to safely operate in our communities, but we know price increases for any reason can be challenging for some customers,” says Brian Weisker,  Piedmont’s president of Piedmont Natural Gas, in a release.

If approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission, the higher rate would take effect in November. Its last rate hike proceeding was in 2021. The company serves 810,000 N.C. customers.

The move comes as natural gas prices trade at multi-year lows. As a result U.S. natural gas producers are slashing production. “Natural gas is currently pricing at or below costs of production,” an oil and gas executive said in comments in the quarterly Dallas Fed Energy Survey released this week, according to the Oilprices.com website.

Piedmont lowered residential customer billing rates in July 2023, saving the average residential customer $176 annually, because of declining fuel costs. Its current rates in North Carolina are available here.

Piedmont Natural Gas is requesting the return of excess deferred income taxes to customers to soften the blow of the increased rate. The company is also requesting a rate reduction for pass-through natural gas costs in an effort to lower the increase.

“We work hard every day to avoid increases to customer bills and to keep costs as low as possible,” says Weisker. “The investments we’ve made to strengthen and enhance our natural gas delivery system help ensure we can meet rising demand for natural gas from new and existing customers while also protecting our customers from unplanned outages.”

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