By C.T. Barnes
Published in Las Cruces Bulletin on 9.9.2022
Like everything else, natural gas prices have continuously been on the rise, especially in 2022. Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) is doing everything they can to make sure customers are prepared for the increase, but that they are also not seeing much of a spike on their LCU monthly bill as we head into the colder months.
As many are aware by now, the increase in natural gas prices has been affected by the fuel being used to generate electricity, the export of liquified natural gas (LNG), and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The approved LCU natural gas rates are to be phased-in over three (3) years. The Decarbonization Rider was approved by City Council to implement the increase in year one.
“We will be done collecting the emergency commodity recovery surcharge at the end of August, and that was one of the stipulations by the LCU Board that the new rates cannot be implemented until the surcharge is completed,” LCU Interim Deputy Director Business Services Domonique Rodriguez stated.
The natural gas rate increase will begin September 1, 2022. This includes the cost of service rate, which LCU determines the revenue requirement in order to function as a safe and reliability utility. “It's figuring out how much the utility needs to run their operations for a safe and reliable system, and how that revenue requirement is allocated to the different customer classes based on how those classes use the system,” stated Rodriguez.
The natural gas rate increase will take small commercial customers access charge from $16.41 to $16.77. This $0.36 increase will bring their average monthly cost from $75.15 to $83.57 showing a $8.42 difference. For residential customers the average price is going from $26.87 to $27.29, a $0.42 increase. These prices are dependent on the cost of natural gas, but LCU averaged in with their rate of increase, estimating the cost of gas at $2.50 per dekatherm.
The Decarbonization Rider goes into effect October 1, 2022. It will not be phased in throughout the next three years as originally planned and will be a one-time increase of 15-cent-per-dekatherm. Annually this increase will cost the average household $10.80 more, with the assumption of 72 dekatherms being used annually. The goal for the Decarbonization Rider is to generate $500,000.00 per year, that LCU will use to fund an energy transition plan and for energy efficiency upgrades in its service area while also exploring renewable energy diversity. The upgrades will help the City-owned utility in reaching the carbon neutral goals that the City of Las Cruces and State of New Mexico have set forth.
As natural gas prices continue to fluctuate, LCU reminds customers that the cost for natural gas is directly passed on to the customer; LCU does not profit from the commodity price of natural gas. Moving into the winter season, LCU’s main obligation is to continue to satisfy customer demand for natural gas.
LCU – Your Utility Connection. Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities
For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: LCU staff working on a natural gas line - Courtesy LCU