Two Indiana utilities are anticipating slightly higher natural gas bills this winter. Vectren Energy Delivery says prices have increased a bit from decade-low levels last year and believes bills will be about 3 percent higher. Citizens Energy in Indianapolis is predicting an increase of less than 2 percent for Marion County customers. October 8, 2013
Indianapolis, Ind. – Natural gas prices that have increased slightly from decade-low levels seen in 2012 will lead to winter bill amounts that are about 3 percent higher than last winter, or about $3 more per month, for Vectren Energy Delivery of Indiana – North (Vectren) customers. Today, the utility announced that assuming normal winter weather year-over-year, customers could see bills that will be slightly higher than last winter but still remain about 35 percent lower than the winter of 2008-2009 resulting in gas bills that remain manageable.
“For the past four winters, customers have seen year-over-year winter bill reductions due to falling gas costs that have now seemed to level off. Even though gas prices have moved upward modestly in the past 12 months, current prices are very favorable and will help keep winter heating costs affordable for Hoosiers,” said Mike Roeder, president of Vectren Energy Delivery of Indiana – North. “Furthermore, natural gas continues to be the most cost-effective fuel source for home heating, especially when customers choose high-efficiency furnaces.”
Natural gas continues to be recognized as the most affordable heating source by the Energy Information Administration. In fact, Vectren gas customers who heated their homes with natural gas last year saved up to $860 compared to those who heat with an electric furnace and $210 to $480 compared to those who heat with an electric heat pump or propane, respectively.
This year, based upon expected natural gas commodity costs and normal winter weather, customers can expect to pay around $530 over the five-month heating season of November through March based on the average household consumption of approximately 645 therms. By comparison, during the winter of 2008-2009, bill amounts for the 5-month period were between $750 to $800 for the average customer. Bills will vary by customer depending on the size and age of the home, number of gas appliances, number in the household, thermostat settings and levels of insulation.
“Although the market points to continued low, stable pricing for years to come, this year we signed two long-term contracts to lock in a portion of our gas supply under 5- and 10-year deals to take advantage of these attractive market prices,” added Roeder. “At the same time, customers should still implement energy efficiency measures and find ways to use less natural gas to lower bills even further.”
Vectren has in place a number of tools to help customers manage their energy bills.
• Energy efficiency resources – Vectren offers appliance rebates and energy-saving tools to help customers lower their natural gas bills. All Indiana residential and small commercial natural gas customers are eligible. Visit Vectren.com/conservation or call 1-866-240-8476 for a list of rebates, qualifying appliances and energy efficiency tips.
• Budget Bill: Under this billing plan, a customer's estimated costs for a year of gas service are spread out in equal monthly bill amounts for the year. This leveling of monthly bill amounts reduces the need to pay the full amount in the winter and spreads some of those higher bill charges into the non-heating months. Amounts are adjusted each summer for actual costs, and the customer’s credit or amount due rolls into the next Budget Bill payment for the next 12-month period. Customers can enroll for free at www.vectren.com or by calling 1-800-227-1376.
• Energy Assistance Program (EAP): State and federal utility assistance dollars are available for income-eligible customers. Those that fall within 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines should visit their local community action agency to sign up for the EAP. To apply for the EAP, customers should call 1-800-872-0371 to locate their nearest community action agency.
• Universal Service Program (USP): All eligible natural gas customers who apply and qualify for EAP will automatically be enrolled in the Universal Service Program (USP), which provides additional gas bill reductions that range from 15 to 32 percent of the total bill (not including EAP benefits) in the months of December through May. The USP, which has been in place since 2005 is the result of a collaborative effort by Vectren, Citizens Energy Group, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, Citizens Action Coalition and a group representing industrial customers. The program provides about $5 million in assistance each year to roughly 25,000 Vectren Indiana customers, including crisis assistance dollars, which target qualified low-income and working-poor households that need additional help to get reconnected and/or maintain heat throughout the upcoming winter.
• Share the Warmth: Those wanting to help the less fortunate with their energy bills can contribute to Share the Warmth, a nonprofit organization that assists income-eligible customers with home weatherization services. Each year, Vectren matches all public donations, up to an annual total of $200,000. Donations may be tax-deductible and can be sent to Share the Warmth, P.O. Box 931, Evansville, IN 47706-0931 or visit www.sharethewarmthinc.com.
“Customers in need of financial assistance are encouraged to reach out to us before they get behind on payments, as there are several options to help customers manage costs” said Roeder. “Furthermore, customers should contact their local community action agency today and apply for financial and/or home weatherization assistance.”
Natural gas is a commodity bought and sold in a national deregulated market and prices fluctuate daily due to supply and demand pressures. Vectren purchases natural gas on behalf of its customers and then passes those costs on to customers through the gas cost adjustment, which is listed on the Vectren bill as “Gas Cost Charge.” Vectren utilities are not allowed to mark up nor profit from the purchase and sale of natural gas. Only gas costs actually incurred and approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission are recovered from customers.
Vectren North delivers natural gas to approximately 570,000 natural gas customers in Adams, Allen, Bartholomew, Blackford, Boone, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Decatur, Delaware, Fayette, Floyd, Fountain, Grant, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Henry, Huntington, Jackson, Jay, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Martin, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Orange, Owen, Parke, Putnam, Randolph, Rush, Shelby, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Vermillion, Vigo, Wabash, Warren, Wayne, Wells and White counties.
Vectren Corporation (NYSE: VVC) is an energy holding company headquartered in Evansville, Ind. Vectren’s energy delivery subsidiaries provide gas and/or electricity to more than 1 million customers in adjoining service territories that cover nearly two-thirds of Indiana and west central Ohio. Vectren’s nonutility subsidiaries and affiliates currently offer energy-related products and services to customers throughout the U.S. These include infrastructure services, energy services and coal mining. To learn more about Vectren, visit www.vectren.com.
Source: Vectren Corp.
INDIANAPOLIS – Citizens Energy Group advised today that the typical gas bill for residential customers in Marion County will increase less than 2 percent over the five month winter heating season, assuming normal temperatures. The typical residential customer in Marion County will likely use 643 therms of natural gas from November through March, for a total bill of about $569. This compares to