Customers can help cut energy bills by making sure their homes have good insulation and their furnaces are properly maintained, said Larry Meador, Mountaineer Gas' manager of business development and communications.
The PSC's Consumer Advocate Division releases an annual report about how much West Virginians pay in utility bills.
During 2012, statewide utility rates for residential customers dropped by an average of 5.3 percent. Monthly payments declined from $293 in January 2012 to $277 in January 2013.
Those rates calculated by the CAD include the combined costs of electricity, natural gas, water and basic telephone service.
Jeri Matheney, communications director for Appalachian Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, said, "Rates went down for our customers on Sept. 1 and they'll stay there.
"Every year, we file for an adjustment [in rates] based on our winter fuel costs. That is ruled on about July 1. This past year, it went down," Matheney said. "I can't predict what it might be [this winter], but I expect rates to be fairly stable for the next year.
In 2012, the average rates for natural gas, telephone and water services were higher in West Virginia than in surrounding states -- Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
"However, the higher cost of these services was more than offset by West Virginia's lower electricity rates," the CAD report states.
In 2012, most West Virginians benefited from "the declining cost of natural gas that utilities purchase to serve their customers."
Between 2000 and 2008, natural gas rates for residents more than doubled, reaching a peak in January 2009, when the average monthly gas bill was nearly $200.
By early 2013, the CAD report states, monthly gas rates dropped to $116, "but there is no guarantee that prices will remain at this level in the future."
During 2012, for the first time in five years, West Virginia's two major electric utilities -- Appalachian Power Company and Monongahela Power Company -- saw their rates drop or remain stable.
Low-income households can help pay their winter heating bills through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP), administered by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. The program is funded through a federal block grant.
People who want to determine whether they are eligible for LIEAP benefits and/or apply for those benefits, can get an application form on the DHHR website at wvinroads.org/inroads. They can also call 1-800-642-8589.
People interested in getting tips about how to save on their utility costs can look at the PSC Consumer Advocate Division site at: cad.state.wv.us/Money%20Savings%20Tips.htm.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.