Spire customers in Joplin and elsewhere in Southwest Missouri will pay twice as much for natural gas this winter.

That doesn’t mean their bill will double, because the cost of the gas is only part of the bill, along with other customer charges, but it is the largest part of the bill — between 50% and 55%, according to regulators — and customers should still expect increases in their monthly bills, said Jason Merrill, spokesman for Spire.

The change means an increase of about $24.36 per month, or 41.5%, for the typical natural gas residential customer, defined as someone an average of 60 to 65 ccf per month. A ccf is a hundred cubic feet of natural gas and a unit to measure usage.

The Missouri Public Service Commission this week approved the increase, which takes effect Tuesday.

“The gas is a straight pass through; it is not something we profit off of. The cost of natural gas has gone up throughout the Midwest and Missouri is no different. ... What we pay for the gas is what a customer pays for the gas,” Merrill said.

In a statement, the PSC said the wholesale cost of natural gas is not regulated by the state, and that cost is “primarily driven by supply, demand and the weather.” The PSC does conduct a review to make sure that regulated natural gas companies such as Spire make prudent decisions in securing natural gas supplies for their customers.

According to the PSC, Spire West residential customers had been paying 40 cents per hundred cubic feet of natural gas used; the new rate will be about 79 cents per hundred cubic feet of gas.

Spire West customers are those on the western side of the state, including customers in Barry, Barton, Jasper, Lawrence, McDonald and Vernon counties.

In a letter to the PSC dated Nov. 12, Scott Weitzel, managing director of regulatory and legislative affairs for Spire, said the Purchased Gas Adjustment for Spire customers represents the actual commodity costs for natural gas.

“This change in the cost of gas reflects the price increase that the gas market has experienced starting with winter storm Uri in February 2021,” Weitzel said. “During this time, we saw unprecedented natural gas price spikes, with gas trading at $200-$600/MMBtu compared to normal prices in the $2-$6/MMBtu range.”

An MMBtu represents 1 million British thermal units and is a way natural gas is measured for financial contracts.

Weitzel also wrote that in addition to the market spikes experienced in February, when temperatures dropped to minus 15 degrees in Joplin and there were problems with natural gas delivery in parts of the Midwest, “there has been significant movement in the natural gas market nationally and internationally since last winter. Last winter market prices were set around $3.26/MMBtu. The market has moved up nearly 59% since last winter to $5.18/MMBtu.

He also wrote, “Fortunately, market reports indicate that natural gas prices are declining for future winter periods, and we are hopeful the current increase in gas costs is a short-term holdover from this year’s polar vortex.”

Merrill said the company worked with the regulators to mitigate the price increase for customers, from the February storm, including spreading the cost of the natural gas out over three years.

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