Xcel Energy proposes drop in February natural gas prices

Denver, CO, Jan. 19, 2006 — Xcel Energy proposed a 21 percent decrease in February 2006 natural gas commodity prices. Coupled with a decrease in expected use, projected bills would decrease next month by 31 percent for typical residential customers and by 35 percent for typical small-business customers.

The natural gas commodity price proposed to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for residential and small-business customers would decrease to $0.8180 per therm in February from $1.0321 per therm in January. The new price reflects anticipated natural gas costs only for the month of February.

Typical residential customers are expected to decrease consumption by 18 percent in February compared to January, so their overall natural gas bills would decrease to $125.83, based on consumption of 119.9 therms. This compares to $183.34 this month on use of 146.6 therms.

Typical small-business customers are expected to use 22 percent less natural gas in February compared to January. Typical natural gas bills would then be $569.31, based on consumption of 569.9 therms, compared to bills this month of $881.34 on use of 730.1 therms.

If approved, the new prices would take effect Feb. 1, 2006.

Projected natural gas prices for February 2006 are lower than the forecast used for January 2006, yet natural gas prices remain at historically high levels due to a continued tight balance between supply and demand. The lingering effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita also continue to impact natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Since mid-December 2005, however, the weather has taken a decidedly warmer turn, reducing natural gas loads and forcing a decline in natural gas futures prices. The Energy Information Administration reported that for the week ending Jan. 6, 2.623 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was in storage, well above the five-year average level of 2.345 trillion cubic feet. Crude oil prices are at just under $64 per barrel, up from last month’s price of about $59.60 per barrel.
In February 2005, typical residential customer bills were $98.22, or $27.61 lower than projected for next month, based on the same consumption of 119.9 therms. Typical small-business customer bills were $438.15 in February 2005, or $131.16 lower than projected for next month, also based on the same use of 569.9 therms.

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