02/10/14 The average temperatures across northern Indiana during January were 39 percent colder than last year – 17 degrees versus 28 degrees in January 2013 –resulting in consumption for the average residential natural gas customer increasing by 34 percent compared to last year.
Given the extreme weather conditions, the average natural gas bill for January is expected to be approximately $36 more than January 2013, and $19 more than what was originally forecasted during NIPSCO’s annual winter bill projections. Actual bills will vary by customer, depending on household size, age of appliances and usage, among other factors.
“The first two months of the year typically represent the highest bills of the year for Indiana homes and businesses, as well as other parts of the Midwest. Our region experienced some of the coldest days in the last several decades, resulting in higher than normal usage,” said Deb Owen, NIPSCO’s executive director of customer service. “Even with thermostats being set at a fixed temperature, it doesn’t escape the fact that heating systems have to constantly run to keep up with dropping outdoor temperatures.”
The extreme cold has increased the price of all heating energy around the country, including natural gas and propane. Throughout these conditions, NIPSCO did not experience any significant operational challenges to serve its customers, and NIPSCO has been able to acquire the additional supplies to meet the critical demand.
Higher market prices may impact bills in future months, and forecasts for February are calling for colder than normal temperatures, which may also increase customer usage.
Nearly two thirds of a customer bill is determined by the cost of natural gas and a customer’s usage. By law, NIPSCO has no mark-up and makes no profit on the cost of natural gas billed to its customers. Before billing, natural gas commodity costs must be reviewed by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).
NIPSCO continues to be the lowest natural gas cost provider in Indiana – $40 below the state average for January – according to the IURC’s monthly residential bill comparison survey.
During this extremely cold winter, NIPSCO still encourages customers to be efficient in the use of energy.
The extreme temperatures and weather also posed unsafe conditions for NIPSCO meter readers to provide actual reads for many customers and, instead, customers received estimated readings.
For those customers who received an estimated bill, their actual usage will be reconciled the following month. Customers can enter their meter reading anytime through their online account or through NIPSCO’s automated phone system.
Billing and Payment Options
Customers who are experiencing financial difficulties are encouraged to call NIPSCO’s Customer Care Center to determine what options might be available to offer help. Solutions include:
· 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.
· BudgetPlan: 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/PaymentAssistance.
Energy and Money-Saving Programs
Through NIPSCO’s energy efficiency programs, customers can pinpoint ways to manage their energy usage and, in turn, their bills. A full list of programs available to NIPSCO customers to help manage energy use can be found at NIPSCO.com/SaveEnergy.