CenterPoint Energy’s Indiana South natural gas territory announced last week that customers could expect a possible increase of five to 10% in their natural gas bills when compared to those of last winter, assuming normal winter weather, due to a rise in natural gas prices.
This year based upon expected natural gas commodity costs and normal winter weather, customers can expect to pay $375 to $395 over the five-month heating season of November through March based on the average household consumption of approximately 530 therms. By comparison, last year’s average bill amount for the five-month period, had weather been normal, would have been around $360.
“Overall, last winter brought weather which was about 10% warmer than normal to the area. In the event we experience normal winter weather this heating season, coupled with a slight increase in gas prices, customers could experience a modest increase in their bills,” said Richard Leger, vice president of Natural Gas Distribution, Indiana and Ohio.
The Energy Information Administration continues to recognize natural gas as the most affordable heating source, according to a report issued today. In fact, CenterPoint Energy gas customers who heated their homes with natural gas last year saved up to $630 compared to those who heat with propane.
It is important to remember 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. Customers are encouraged to still implement energy efficiency measures and find ways to use less natural gas to lower bills even further.
CenterPoint Energy has in place a number of tools to help customers manage their energy bills.
- Energy efficiency resources: CenterPoint Energy 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 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 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. A mid-winter recalculation may occur for some customers if gas costs significantly change during the heating season. Customers can enroll for free on 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 60% of state median income 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. Community action agencies will begin taking applications for all energy assistance programs on Nov. 1. A one-time $350 CARES Act benefit, on top of the standard EAP benefit, may be available to applicants. In order to qualify for this additional benefit, applicants must meet the EAP eligibility criteria and not have received the additional benefit payment during the last program year. Customers may also apply any time at the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) website at https://ihcda.rhsconnect.com/.
- Universal Service Program (USP): All eligible natural gas heating 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% of the total bill received (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 CenterPoint Energy, Citizens Energy Group, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, Citizens Action Coalition and a group representing industrial customers. The program provides about $1.5 million in assistance each year to roughly 18,000 CenterPoint Energy 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, CenterPoint Energy matches all public donations, up to an annual total of $225,000. 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 who pay their bills at vectren.com may donate through a bill round-up feature. In 2019, customers across CenterPoint Energy Indiana and Ohio territories used this feature to direct nearly $170,000 in donations to Share the Warmth, which was matched by CenterPoint Energy.
“We understand given the current pandemic, many might be experiencing financial hardship, and we encourage customers to make contact for options to help manage costs,” said Leger. “Local community action agencies can further provide assistance and customers should call today and apply for financial and/or home weatherization assistance if needed.”
CenterPoint Energy utilities are not allowed to markup, 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.
Natural gas is a commodity bought and sold in a national deregulated market and prices fluctuate daily due to supply and demand pressures. CenterPoint Energy 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 bill as “Gas Cost Charge.”
CenterPoint Energy’s Indiana South territory delivers natural gas to approximately 113,000 customers in Daviess, Gibson, Knox, Martin, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Vanderburgh and Warrick counties.