PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As automobile gas prices remain relatively high across Oregon and Washington, NW Natural customers should brace for a hike in their gas utility bills starting next month.

In a release on Thursday, Oregon Public Utility Commission said residents will see a gradual bump in their bill over the next six months. From Nov. 1 to next March, residential customers will experience a 14.4% increase in their monthly bills on average.

Residential customers will be placed on a delayed payment program where they are expected pay about $7 more during the winter months than they previously had. If the delayed payment program was not available, PUC said customers would be facing a hike of about $17.

Then from March 15 through October 2023, utility officials said customers will be required to pay the deferred portion of the rate increase.

While residential customers are being eased into the price hike, commercial and industrial customers are being hit with it immediately. On Nov. 1, commercial customers will begin paying a 23.2% increase, while industrial customers will start paying a whopping 39.6% more.

PUC blamed the overall rate increase of 24.4% on climbing gas prices and NW Natural’s effort to increase its non-gas costs in a general rate proceeding.

“Unfortunately, global events drive the price for utilities to purchase natural gas,” said Megan Decker, PUC Chair. “There’s simply no way to avoid these higher prices impacting customers, although we were able to defer some of the impacts for residential customers. In addition, there may be other options available to residential customers to help reduce the bottom line impact.”

Despite these increases, NW Natural claims its “customers will still be paying less than they did 15 years ago for their natural gas bills. That’s because NW Natural says it has taken several steps to maximize affordability, such as locking in gas purchases at lower rates, smart investments in energy storage, and energy efficiency measures.”

NW Natural suggests customers use its Equal Pay payment plans, which divide a customer’s annual gas usage into 11 equal monthly payments. Along with that, the company said customers should look into low-cost, energy-saving home improvements. Meanwhile, PUC urges NW Natural customers to view the EnergyTrust of Oregon’s tips on saving energy and money.

Additionally, NW Natural is launching a new income-qualified bill discount program that is also starting in November. Discounts offered will reportedly range from 15 to 40% and be available to households that bring in 60% less than Oregon’s median income level.