PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s utility companies previously announced to customers that their monthly bills would be increasing to reflect the rising cost of natural gas.

Now that many Oregonians’ rates have officially spiked, Portland General Electric and NW Natural have told KOIN 6 News what customers should know about the changes and what they could do for additional financial assistance.

PGE’s customer rates went up on Sunday, Jan. 1. Spokesperson John Farmer said that although no two customers are the same, the average increase was about 7% — and some factors beyond PGE’s jurisdiction are causing the increase.

“Most of the increase is driven by the cost of fuel needed to operate our natural gas-fired power plants and what we expect to pay for wholesale power we’ll purchase from other energy suppliers to serve reliable, affordable power to customers in 2023,” Farmer said. “Other parts of the increase are baked into our regulated price structure… Fortunately, due to PGE’s pre-emptive financial practices to protect customers, including fuel price hedging, we are able to keep this increase substantially below the actual market increases.”

For NW Natural customers, the price increases started on Nov. 1, 2022. The monthly bills increased by an average of 14.4%.

Communications Senior Manager Stefanie Week said the spike happened as a result of many factors, but customers are still paying less than what they did 15 years ago for natural gas.

According to Week, the utility company buys gas in the wholesale market and then charges customers at wholesale costs, without an added markup.

“Some areas on the West Coast are seeing unusually high natural gas prices,” she said. “NW Natural customers are not paying these high prices right now because of the company’s purchasing process and other considerations. Even with a cold winter so far, the average residential customer in Oregon paid about 15% more for their NW Natural gas bill in December 2022 than they did the previous year.”

Both NW Natural and PGE have options for customers who may be struggling with the hiked-up bills. NW Natural offers temporary payment plans and bill discounts between 15% and 40%. PGE connects customers with energy assistance programs here.

Together, the utility companies serve over 3 million customers in the Pacific Northwest.