Expect lower winter heating bills

MERRILLVILLE — Residential natural gas customers can expect their bills to be lower than last year during the upcoming winter heating season, based on the continued low cost of natural gas and assuming normal weather and usage, NIPSCO predicts.

Over the upcoming five-month winter heating season – November through March – NIPSCO’s average natural gas residential customers, using the system average of 625 therms total, could expect to pay approximately $404 in total, according to utility spokesman Nick Meyer

In comparison, last year’s average bill for the same five months, had weather been normal, would have been $441.

Projections take into account market forecasts, supply trends and storage levels, and are based on normal weather projections, according to Meyer. If temperatures are colder or warmer than normal, usage amounts and bills could differ.

With the dramatic changes in weather last winter, with a string of days well below zero, and others well above normal, that number was actually a bit higher, Meyer said.

“Last winter, the actual average usage for those five total months was $472, based on 674 total therms used during that time,” he said.

NIPSCO is currently the second lowest-cost natural gas provider among Indiana’s 18 provider companies, according to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s Residential Natural Gas Bill Surveys, as of October 2019.

There are two primary components of natural gas bills – the cost of the natural gas itself and the cost of delivering the natural gas to customers, Meyer said. For the cost of natural gas itself, NIPSCO passes it directly to customers with no markup. The cost of all components of gas service is reviewed and approved by the IURC.

To help ensure customers receive the best price for natural gas, NIPSCO purchases gas in the market from a variety of supply sources throughout the year.

Gas storage is also used to help offset market price volatility. NIPSCO’s gas distribution system consists of two on-system storage facilities and is connected to seven interstate pipelines providing access to major North American supply basins.

Customers who are experiencing financial difficulties are encouraged to call NIPSCO’s 24-hour Customer Care Center as soon as possible to determine what options might be available to offer help. Some of those solutions include:

• Bill Payment Assistance Programs: Based on income levels, customers may qualify to receive state and federal utility assistance dollars as well as support funds from separate NIPSCO programs by visiting their local community action agency.

• Budget Plan: A free service to all NIPSCO customers to help manage their monthly energy bills by spreading out gas costs over an entire year.

• Payment Arrangements: Allows customers to make an initial payment within four days of the agreement, then spread the remaining unpaid balance over three months, plus current bills as they are due.

For more information on billing options and payment assistance, visit NIPSCO.com/BillingPayment.

Usage makes up the largest portion of the average energy bill. Because of this, NIPSCO offers energy-efficiency programs to help manage usage and, in turn, bills. A full list of programs and tips available to NIPSCO customers can be found at NIPSCO.com/savenow.

NIPSCO is Indiana’s largest natural gas distribution company, serving approximately 820,000 natural gas customers across 32 counties.

— From staff reports

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