Utah gas and electric companies report modest rise in price
Hotel managers are staying cool about their heat bills this winter. Despite the post-Katrina concerns of astronomical utility bill increase, electric bills are not expected to rise in the upcoming months, according to Utah Power. Questar reports it will be asking the Public Service commission of Utah (PSC) for a rate increase of 20.3 a more modest rise than they anticipated.
Last week, Questar Spokesman Chad Jones reported the company might raise prices as much as 35 percent for this winter, but he also added that Questar is unique in that half of its supply comes from Questar-owned gas supplies. Questar’s press release this week confirmed Jones’ report: company-owned gas saved customers more than $377 million.
If the PSC approves the request for a rate increase, the average monthly bill for the typical residential customer will be about $18 on Nov. 1.
While 11 percent of Utah Power runs on natural gas, and while their newest plants have also run on natural gas, the company does not plan to raise their rates for winter, according to Utah Power spokesman Jeff Hymas. "The reason we use natural gas is because it’s easier to get the plants online. Gas powered plants can be up and running within an hour, while coal-fired plants can take up to four hours," he reports. "And sometimes it has environmental benefits compared to other sources of power like coal."
Hymas has received several calls from people confusing gas with electricity, he says. The company does not rely on natural gas as it’s primary source for power, and uses less of its gas-powered peaking units in the winter, Hymas explained. The majority of power 74 percent comes from coal-fired plants, and hydro-electric plants.
"We have a diversified generation portfolio, so we have a good mix of fuel sources for producing electricity we have a number of coal-fired plants in Utah and Wyoming and a lot of hydropower plants in the Northwest as well as wind power and other renewables and natural gas," he said. "It allows us to be flexible when prices fluctuate."
That’s good news for local hotels like the Yarrow Conference Center, which heats all 186 units with electricity, according to Yarrow administrative assistant Barbara Keaveney. "We have heating units in each room which also function as cooling units our lobby and restaurant are heated by gas, but our guests warm their rooms with a heat pump," she explained. "We didn’t really have much of a choice about whether our rooms were heated with gas the building was built 25 years ago."
The 76 rooms at the newer Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites are also heated by electrical heat-pump units reports hotel manager Melissa Averett.
"Our corporate office has not said anything about cutting back on heat, but we have ordered some new, warmer comforters for the rooms so I hope people won’t need to turn up their heat as high," she said. "But otherwise, I don’t think I would ever ask guests to turn their heat down."
For information on programs to help income-eligible customers pay their gas bills, Questar customers can find links to the Energy Assistance Target Program or Residential Energy Assistance through Community Help at Questargas.com.
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