Columbia Gas rate is lowest in 20 years

By Dan Gearino The Columbus Dispatch  •  Wednesday March 2, 2016
Columbia Gas of Ohio customers are paying their lowest bills since 1996, and this winter’s cost of heating is projected to be the lowest in at least a decade.
Customers are seeing these benefits because the supply of natural gas is far outstripping the demand, a situation made more extreme by the mild winter weather.

“It does come down to Supply and Demand 101,” said Brian Milne, energy editor for Schneider Electric, an energy-management company. “You just have too much supply and not enough demand to absorb it all.”

Columbia’s March rate is 30 cents per 100 cubic feet of gas, down from 42 cents last year. Based on this price, an average household is projected to have a total bill — including all taxes and fees — of $75.07, down from $99.42 last year.

The monthly rate has not been this low since January 1996, when it was 29.3 cents, according to records from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

“It’s a tremendous thing,” said Shawn Anderson, Columbia’s vice president of finance and regulatory. Low bills give customers “more discretionary income to prioritize the things that matter most to them.”

Columbia’s monthly price is the sum of the U.S. market price of gas at the end of the prior month and a service fee. The pricing system, which has changed several times since 1996, applies to the roughly six out of every 10 Columbia customers who have not chosen an alternative supplier.

Customers are also saving money in the entire heating season, which runs from November to March. Columbia said an average household is projected to pay $395.23 over the five months, which is down from $518.04 last year and is the lowest in a decade.

The record high was in 2005-06: $1,062.59.

Columbia is the natural-gas utility for 1.4 million customers in Ohio, covering a 61-county territory that includes the Columbus and Toledo regions.