Natural gas customers will see their prices increase | Local news


New tariffs for natural gas customers in Joplin and elsewhere in southwestern Missouri went into effect Thursday.

The average Spire West customer, defined as someone who uses 10,000 cubic feet of natural gas, will see an increase of $ 8.12 per month. For customers in Spire East, in eastern Missouri, the increase will be $ 1.52 per month.

The increases, which were recently approved by the Missouri Civil Service Commission, will generate $ 24.9 million in new revenue for Spire, which is less than the $ 65 million requested when filing the tariff request in 2020. Spire said at the time that it was trying to recoup nearly $ 1 billion in investments made in recent years, 97% of which was for infrastructure upgrades and improvement of the distribution network. .

Under the deposit:

• There will be no change to the monthly charges for residential customers. It will remain at $ 20 per month for residential customers in Speyer West.

• Spire will target income-eligible energy efficiency programs in part towards multi-family homes with high energy costs and / or those with large numbers of people behind on their payments.

• Spire’s Low Income Energy Affordability Program will change its name to the Payments Partner Program. The agreement approved by the PSC provides for automatic referral of customers to energy efficiency programs and the expansion of program eligibility from 185% of the federal poverty level to 200%. Annual funding for the Payments Partner program will remain at $ 1.65 million, plus an additional annual contribution of $ 650,000 from Spire for a total of $ 2.3 million.

• Spire will also conduct a three-year pilot program to help serve customers with critical medical needs.

In its statement, the PSC said the increase relates to “non-gas-related” costs, including O&M expenses to deliver natural gas to customers. The increase also includes the recovery of funds invested in meters, main and service lines that provide natural gas to homes and businesses.

However, gas costs are also rising for Speyer customers, who announced this fall that its customers in Joplin and elsewhere in southwest Missouri would pay twice as much for natural gas this winter. According to the PSC, residential customers in Speyer West were paying 40 cents per hundred cubic feet of natural gas used; the new rate will be about 79 cents per hundred cubic feet of gasoline.

This doesn’t mean their bill will double as the cost of gas is only part of the bill, along with the other fees being charged to customers, but it is the biggest part of the bill – between 50% and 55%. %, according to regulators.

“Gas is a direct passage; it is not something that we take advantage of. The cost of natural gas has increased throughout the Midwest and Missouri is no different. … What we pay for gas is what a customer pays for gas, ”said Jason Merrill, spokesperson for Spire.

In a statement, the PSC said the wholesale cost of natural gas is not regulated by the state and that the cost is “primarily determined by supply, demand and weather conditions.” The PSC is performing a review to ensure that regulated natural gas companies such as Spire are making prudent decisions to secure the supply of natural gas to their customers.

In a letter to the PSC dated November 12, Scott Weitzel, managing director of regulatory and legislative affairs at Speyer, said: “This change in the cost of gas reflects the increase in prices that the gas market has seen from winter storm Uri in February 2021, ”Weitzel said. “During this period, we have seen unprecedented spikes in natural gas prices, with gas trading between $ 200 and $ 600 / MMBtu against normal prices in the range of $ 2 to $ 6 / MMBtu.”

One MMBtu represents 1 million British thermal units and is a way of measuring natural gas for financial contracts.

Weitzel also wrote that in addition to market peaks in February, when temperatures fell to minus 15 degrees in Joplin and there were problems delivering natural gas to parts of the Midwest, “there are has had a significant movement in the natural gas market nationally and internationally since last winter. Last winter, market prices were pegged around $ 3.26 / MMBtu. The market is up nearly 59% since last winter to $ 5.18 / MMBtu.

He also wrote: “Fortunately, market reports indicate that natural gas prices are down for the winter months to come, and we hope that the current increase in gas costs is a short-term holdover from the polar vortex. of this year. “

Merrill said the company has worked with regulators to mitigate price increases for customers due to the February storm, including by spreading the cost of natural gas over three years.

Spire Missouri West provides natural gas service to approximately 522,000 customers in Barry, Barton, Jasper, Lawrence, McDonald, Vernon and other counties.


Julio V. Miller