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New natural gas reserves could mean lower electric bills

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How could more jobs in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia have a positive effect on the budgets of residents in South County?

By PENNY FLETCHER

APOLLO BEACH — How could more jobs in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia have a positive effect on the budgets of residents in South County?

Less importing of the natural gas it takes to fuel electric plants, including Tampa Electric  Company’s large Apollo Beach facility, means the costs to the customer can be lowered.
New domestic reserves in a portion of what’s called the Marcellus Shale, an area of Appalachia encompassing portions of the four states mentioned above, have increased 80 percent production this year, according to online reports gleaned by Googling the Marcellus Shale Drilling Project.

“TECO officials filed projected costs with Florida’s Public Service Commission Aug. 31,” said TECO spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs. “The Commission is scheduled to vote on the issue after a hearing November 5.”

Jacobs said TECO has been able to make a lower fuel price adjustment annually for four years straight, and one year was able to lower costs twice because fuel is costing them less.
“We don’t make any profit on our fuel,” Jacobs said. “We just charge the customer for producing electricity. Our fuel costs are included in our production costs, and they have gone down five times consecutively, each time we evaluated.”

This will be good news for 2013, she said.

If the Commission approves the request as filed, a residential customer’s monthly bill would drop $4.32 to $102.58 for 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh), a 4 percent drop from the current $106.90 a month. Commercial customers would see bills drop by nearly five percent and industrial customers would remain the same (would see no increase).

This means TECO’s residential customers’ bills would fall to about 14 percent below the national average (which is $119 per month based on a 12 month average) according to May 2012 data obtained by TECO from the Energy Information Administration, Jacobs said.

Because of lower projected fuel costs, TECO estimates that by the end of 2012 it will spend $69 million less on fuel than originally projected for that period.

The decrease in the fuel portion of the bill is based on lower costs for natural gas during the first six months of 2012, projections for the remainder of 2012 and expected fuel prices in 2013.

The Aug. 31 filing figures also include projections for other costs, including environmental expenses, which rose slightly, but were more than offset by the reduction in natural gas prices, Jacobs added.

In an effort to cover all sides of this story, the following link is provided describing data provided by both sides of the “economic independence through drilling vs. environmental factors:” www.srsi.buffalo.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/UBSRSI-Environmental-Impacts-Single-Page.pdf.

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