Expect a small natural-gas hike

Piedmont Natural Gas customers can expect a small rate increase, following a ruling by state regulators.

Piedmont, the state's biggest natural utility, with more than 700,000 customers, was approved Friday for a 1.65 percent residential rate increase. However, the increase may not last long. Piedmont, whose territory includes Mecklenburg and Union counties, is expected to request a decrease in December or January to reflect falling natural gas prices.

Meanwhile, PSNC Energy's residential customers will get a 6 percent price break on natural gas starting Saturday.

State regulators issued a pair of rulings Friday and Monday authorizing rate changes for PSNC, the natural gas utility whose territory includes Concord, Statesville and Gastonia. The rulings by the N.C. Utilities Commission will translate to about $8.50 a month in savings for a typical residential customer this winter. A typical household uses 94 therms a month in the winter.

PSNC and Piedmont are allowed by state law to pass on their fuel costs to customers, but the utilities are required to negotiate the best deals for their customers.

Even with the reduction in November, PSNC households will be paying slightly more this winter than they paid last winter.

But PSNC can request adjustments to its fuel costs every month. The company has reduced rates twice already since natural gas prices began falling after peaking in July.