Southwest Gas customers can expect to see an increase in their gas bills starting Jan. 1, 2012.
The new approved rates will result in an increase of 7.7 percent, or $3.33 monthly, for the average residential ratepayer. The residential basic monthly service charge, imposed
regardless of usage, will remain at $10.70.
The rate increase depends on how much gas customers use and will affect people in cold climates who use gas for heating more so than it would be for those who use the fuel to cook and heat water.
Statewide there are approximately 1 million Southwest Gas customers, 6,500 in the Douglas, Pirtleville and Elfrida areas.
Southwest Gas officials said decoupling was needed because the Corporation Commission requires natural-gas utilities to decrease the amount of fuel they sell by 6 percent by 2020.
“It protects the customer in times of high usage but it also protects also Southwest Gas should we have a cold spell like we did last year ,” Libby Howell, spokeswoman for Southwest Gas said.
A consumers bill could rise or fall depending on the cost-recovery mechanism. There will be a five percent cap to the non-portion of the customers bill which will amount to about $1.50 a month on top of the rate increase.
That increase could also wind up as a credit if it turns out the company has recovered enough in fixed costs.
Southwest Gas is also prohibited from filing a general rate case that would result in changes to customer rates prior to 2017.