Council helps Wilson Energy natural gas households

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Wilson City Council agreed Thursday morning to spend $365,000 to lower bills for residential natural gas customers.

Customers will see the impact on their bills as a $30 per household credit. The credit is meant to alleviate the impact of a dramatic spike in January in the cost of natural gas delivery.

Without the credit, typical households would have faced bills $45-$50 more than usual.

City Council members stressed that this was a one-time event, due to the unusual circumstances in January 2014. A polar vortex pulled Arctic air over much of the U.S. and energy shortages in the Northeast caused natural gas delivery costs to increase by more than 3000 percent.

The added expense to Wilson Energy was in excess of $1 million. The city’s rate structure would have automatically passed that cost onto customers.

The City Council decided Feb. 6 to use $500,000 from reserves to protect all natural gas customers from huge rate increases. The $365,000 allocated Thursday creates the credit for residential customers only.

Approximately a third of Wilson Energy natural gas customers have already been billed for gas usage in January, said Finance Director Kim Hands. Those people will receive letters notifying them about the $30 credits. The remaining customers will have the credit included in their bills.

The $865,000 taken from the natural gas utility’s reserves should not have a major effect, City Manager Grant Goings said. The utility should still have about 25 percent of its annual budget in reserve at the fiscal year’s end; the city has used 25 percent as its benchmark for its reserve accounts.

Some portions of the city are served by Piedmont Natural Gas. Those households will not receive the credit. Neither will Wilson Energy customers who do not have natural gas service or who did not use natural gas during the billing period.