For the fourth consecutive winter, the customers of Public Service Electric & Gas will receive a credit to help defray the cost of heating their homes.
The total credit of $124 over December, January, and February will reduce bills for the typical residential customer by about 30 percent, according to the Newark utility.
With the price of natural gas at historic lows, this year’s credit, combined with ones in previous years, will reduce residential bills by 55 percent — or more than $900 –from what they were in 2009. Back then, the typical annual residential heating bill amounted to $1,670, compared with projections for this winter of $750, the utility said.
“I can’t think of any commodity that costs 55 percent less than it did in 2009,’’ said Jorge Cardenas, PSE&G vice president of asset management and centralized services. PSE&G, the state’s largest utility, serves 1.8 million gas customers.
Cardenas attributed the smaller bill to low prices for natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania, the utility’s transportation and storage capabilities, and the way it manages its gas contracts.
Like other utilities, PSE&G makes no money on the commodity itself, passing along what it pays to customers. Its profits derive from delivering the fuel to homes and businesses through its network of pipelines.
[related]While welcome news for consumers, the plentiful supplies of natural gas have led to an expansion of pipelines in New Jersey, much to the anguish of residents living near them and to environmentalists who want the state to scale back use of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming. Many of the pipelines also cross farmland and open space previously set aside with taxpayer money.
Beyond approximately a dozen new pipelines, there are four new gas-fired power plants expected to be operational by 2015-2016, as generators switch to the fuel because it is cheaper than coal and nuclear-based power.
The latest credits were announced only days after the Christie administration released a draft update of its Energy Master Plan, in which officials say cheap natural gas has helped drive down energy costs in New Jersey. Back in 2011, the state had the 17th highest natural-gas costs in the nation; its most recent ranking put it at 48th.
The lower natural gas prices are part of a trend in which energy costs are declining, with customers paying less to fill their cars at the service station and homeowners paying less for home heating oil this winter, according to projections by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.