WASHINGTON, D.C. — There's good news and bad news on the gas bill front. Due to projected colder weather in the first quarter of 2007, compared to the same period last year, natural gas spot prices are expected to average $8.58 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) in the first quarter, about $0.65 per mcf higher than in the first quarter of 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).[NP]
[/NP]However, due to recent slightly warmer-than-normal weather and high levels of natural gas in storage, gas bills for the winter season should still be lower than last year.What will people be paying for natural gas? Estimates vary by utility company, but several companies are estimating the reduction to be around 15 percent. In Colorado, for example, Xcel Energy Inc. says gas bills for a typical small business will be about $522 in January, off from about $806 in January 2006. Xcel said it anticipated natural gas costs to be 14.6 percent lower in January than December.In California, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) is offering a special deal to about 4.2 million residential and small-business natural gas users — use less gas now and pay less next spring. If customers cut their use of natural gas by 1 percent or more in January and by 1 percent or more in February compared to a year earlier, their bills will be credited by like amounts in March or April, depending on the customer's billing cycle.