CenterPoint wins higher rates for Miss. gas users

Miss. Public Service Commission approves higher rates for CenterPoint natural gas customers

Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Rates are going up for CenterPoint Energy Inc. natural gas customers in Mississippi.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission approved a rate increase Thursday that will cost the average CenterPoint residential customer an additional $1.58 a month. The average small commercial customer will pay about $4 more per month.

The increase goes into effect Friday, the company said.

The regulatory body adjusts rates annually for Houston-based CenterPoint Energy, which has 122,000 Mississippi customers in areas including coastal cities, suburban Jackson, Laurel, McComb and Oxford. This year's adjustment found the company was making a much lower return on its investment than it is normally allowed, prompting a boost in base charges.

"There was a large difference in what our actual return was versus our allowed return," said Richard Leger, CenterPoint's director of regulatory affairs in Mississippi and Louisiana.

The minimum customer charge for residents will rise from $9.77 to $10.55 a month. Customers will pay 13.2 cents per 100 cubic feet of gas to help maintain pipes and cover company overhead, up from 11.2 cents. Including all those charges, the average base bill will rise 11 percent from $14.25 to $15.83.

Customers pay an additional charge to cover the cost of natural gas, bringing the average monthly residential bill to about $34, Leger said.

The minimum charge for small commercial customers will rise from $13.20 to $15.09. Those users will pay 21 cents per 100 cubic feet of gas, up from 19.3 cents now. Including those charges, the average base bill before additional gas charges would rise 10.8 percent to $40.75.

The changes are expected to increase CenterPoint's overall revenue by about $2.9 million. During negotiations with the PSC, CenterPoint agreed to decrease the amount of revenue it sought by about $344,000, said Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley.

Leger said that the company has also agreed to use 55 percent of its asset management charges to reduce the cost of gas by $2 million.

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