TERRE HAUTE —
Natural gas prices have remained stable and relatively low during the past three years. This could again translate to manageable bills for Vectren Energy Delivery of Indiana-North customers.
The utility is predicting customers could see bills that are as much as 5 percent lower this winter. Abundant gas supply in the U.S. has resulted in natural gas costs, which are passed through to customers on a dollar-for-dollar basis, remaining at levels not seen since 2001. As such, bill amounts have decreased by nearly 40 percent since the winter of 2008-2009.
“Given gas costs represent about 60 percent of winter bills, these lower prices are helping keep bill amounts down,” said Brad Ellsworth, president of Vectren Energy Delivery of Indiana-North.
This year, based upon expected natural gas commodity costs and normal winter weather, customers can expect to pay around $515 over the five-month heating season of November through March based on the average household consumption of approximately 630 therms. 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. Last winter was mild, and the average customer’s actual usage was only 510 therms. As such, bill amounts for November 2011 through March 2012 were much lower than originally forecasted.
“Despite the very positive outlook for natural gas bills, customers should still implement energy efficiency measures and find ways to use less natural gas to lower bills even further,” Ellsworth added. “Investing in high-efficiency appliances, implementing low-cost energy efficiency measures and upgrading insulation are still the right steps to undertake.”
A number of tools can help customers manage their energy bills.
• Conservation Connection offers appliance rebates and new energy-saving tools to help customers lower their bills. All Indiana residential and small commercial natural gas customers are eligible. A conservation call center at 1-866-240-8476 is also available. Visit Vectren.com for a list of rebates and qualifying appliances.
• Under the Budget Bill billing plan, a customer’s estimated costs for a year of gas service are spread out in equal monthly bill amounts for the year. Customers can enroll at www.vectren.com or by calling 1-800-227-1376.
• Low-cost home improvement and energy conservation tips are available at Vectren.com or by calling 1-866-240-8476. Customers can also access how-to videos on home improvement projects such as caulking, weather-stripping or installing a low-flow showerhead at www.VectrenLiveSmart.
• State and federal utility assistance dollars are available for income-eligible customers through the Energy Assistance Program. 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.
• All eligible natural gas customers who apply and qualify for EAP will automatically be enrolled in the Universal Service Program, 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.
• 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.sharet
Natural gas is a commodity bought and sold in a national deregulated market. Prices fluctuate daily due to supply and demand pressures.
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.