MARIETTA - Some Dominion East Ohio customers will see a decrease in their natural gas bills this month, due in part to an increase in natural gas production in shale fields in Ohio and surrounding states.
"We have a situation where we have declining demand and increasing supply and that translates into good news for customers," said Neil Durbin, senior communications specialist with Dominion East Ohio. "These are levels they haven't seen in 10 years."
According to the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, a typical residential customer on what is called Dominion's "SCO" (Standard Choice Offer) rate will save almost $40 annually based on an average annual usage of 99.1 Mcf (per thousand cubic feet) of natural gas.
The SCO is the default price for natural gas paid by Dominion customers who are not served by a retail supplier through the company's Energy Choice program or from participation in governmental aggregation.
The decrease comes after the results of an auction were finalized, according to Anthony Rodriguez, senior media specialist with the Ohio Consumers' Counsel.
"This has been going on a few years. Dominion has had an auction to set part of the rates customers pay directly for gas since 2009," Rodriguez explained.
Durbin said the new SCO rate of $3.446 Mcf will take effect March 13. The SCO rate was $4.993 Mcf last March. Durbin said $3.446 Mcf is the lowest SCO customers have paid since May 2002, when the rate was $3.476 Mcf.
Durbin said while an increase in shale drilling is contributing to the decreasing prices, the mild winter weather is also a factor.
"People are using less gas than usual, plus they're paying less for the gas because market prices are less than they were a year ago. That's being driven by the warmer than normal winter and the increase in the natural gas production," Durbin said.
Durbin added the new rates apply to 322,000 of the company's 1.2 million customers.
"Of our remaining customers, 605,000 buy natural gas from independent suppliers under our Energy Choice program and an additional 261,000 customers buy natural gas through governmental aggregation programs," he said.
Rodriguez said it's important that customers understand that they won't see any changes in their bills if they are served by government aggregation or a retail supplier.
Still, for the customers who are being impacted, it is positive news, he said.
"Overall, this is good news and has validated competitive natural gas auctions are a good way to produce savings for Ohioans," he said.