Public Service Electric & Gas customers should have some extra dollars in their wallets this holiday season.
The Newark utility announced yesterday it is providing a two-month bill credit for residential gas customers that will cut the average monthly bill by about 33 percent in November and December.
For the typical residential customer, that translates into a total savings of $93.10, according to the utility. Depending on meter-reading schedules, many customers will see some of the credit in November and December, with the rest in January.
The drop in rates is the latest in a string of reductions in customer bills that started in January 2009, which have saved the average residential PSE&G customer about $674 per year. Customers of the three other gas utilities in New Jersey have benefitted from steep cuts in their utility bills.
“We’re pleased that we can provide this substantial credit to our customers, especially at this time of year,’’ said Jorge Cardenas, vice president of asset management and centralized services. “This bill credit will return money to customers as temperatures are dropping and they strive to keep heating bills affordable.’’
Cardenas attributed the drop in bills by as much as 39 percent to the steady decline in natural gas prices, a trend not only resulting in lower heating bills, but also reduced electric bills.
“Our close proximity to the abundance of gas supply in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania, plus our transportation and storage capabilities and the way we manage our pipeline contracts, enabled us to seize this opportunity to once again reduce costs for our customers,’’ he said.
The lowering of the gas bills also may bolster the utility’s case with state regulators to spend up to $3.9 billion over the next decade to fortify its power grid to prevent widespread outages in storms such as Hurricane Sandy.
Because of lower natural gas prices and the elimination of a surcharge on utility bills’ stemming from energy deregulation in 1999, PSE&G has argued even with the billions of dollars in new investment, ratepayers’ bills would remain flat.
That argument was repeated on Tuesday by Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G’s president and chief operating officer, who argued at a press conference in the utility’s headquarters in Newark that the decline in natural gas prices makes it an opportune time to invest in upgrading infrastructure.
But New Jersey Board of Public Utilities President Bob Hanna has disputed some of the utility’s assertions. Hanna told a legislative committee earlier this year that the utility’s proposal would raise customer rates by 8 percent, if approved. At the time, Hanna acknowledged the necessity of upgrading utilities’ infrastructure to avert outages from extreme storms.