When they get their bills in March, most gas customers in Massachusetts are going see a decrease of 4 or 5% after the Department of Public Utilities this week approved a mid-season reduction in gas supply charges as natural gas prices drop.
Gas companies are required to buy natural gas at the market rate and pass the costs on to their customers without making a profit. Rates are typically adjusted on Nov. 1 and May 1, but the Healey administration said Thursday that DPU can require gas companies to revise their gas supply rates (also known as a cost of gas adjustment factor or GAF) "whenever the companies will materially over- or under-collect costs from customers."
And due to dropping market prices for natural gas -- the NASDAQ price of natural gas was $5.714 on Nov. 1, 2022 and $2.468 on Feb. 1 -- Massachusetts gas companies are decreasing supply rates for gas consumed during February, March and April.
"Families and businesses need relief, and our administration is heartened to see a downward trend in natural gas prices," Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said.
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Natural gas customers across Massachusetts saw their costs increase about 20% when the winter rates went into effect in November. At the time, the Baker administration was urging Bay Staters to brace for "at best, a very high-cost energy winter" due to the Northeast's relative overreliance on natural gas (for electricity generation and heating) and the commodity's sensitivity to global issues like the war in Ukraine and inflation.
DPU's announcement of gas supply rate reductions also revealed that the agency's commission is now being chaired, on an acting basis, by member Cecile Fraser. The former chair, Matthew Nelson, is no longer listed as a member. The three-person commission is appointed by the secretary of energy and environmental affairs with approval of the governor. Robert Hayden is still listed as a member of the DPU commission.
"These reductions in winter gas supply rates will offer some much-needed relief to gas ratepayers this winter," Fraser said. "We continue to direct the utilities to work with the families and businesses across the Commonwealth through energy efficiency and fuel assistance programs to help alleviate the burdens of energy costs."