Natural gas bills expected to increase
CenterPoint Energy’s Indiana North natural gas territory announced earlier this week that customers may see a significant increase in their natural gas bills when compared to those of last winter, assuming normal winter weather, primarily because of natural gas market conditions.
This year based upon expected natural gas commodity costs and normal winter weather, customers can expect to pay on average $130 a month, over the five-month heating season of November through March. By comparison, last year’s average bill amount for the 5-month period was around $88 a month.
“In the event we experience normal winter weather this heating season, coupled with a significant increase in natural gas prices, customers should expect an increase in their bills,” said Richard Leger, Vice President of Natural Gas Distribution, Indiana and Ohio. “Even with higher natural gas prices this winter heating season, bills should still remain lower than customers experienced in the late 2000s when prices for natural gas were at record levels nationwide.”
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.”
The Energy Information Administration continues to recognize natural gas as the most affordable heating source, according to a report issued yesterday. In fact, CenterPoint Energy gas customers who heated their homes with natural gas last year saved up to $865 compared to those who heat with propane and $395 to $1,100 compared to those who heat with an electric heat pump or electric furnace, respectively.
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.
· 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. Customers can enroll for free on www.centerpointenergy.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 percent 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. Customers may also apply any time at the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority 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 USP, which provides additional gas bill reductions that range from 15 to 32 percent 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. Donations may be tax-deductible and can be made with a checking or savings account number and routing number at www.sharethewarmthinc.com. Customers who pay their bills at www.centerpointenergy.com may donate through a bill round-up feature. In 2020, customers across CenterPoint Energy’s Indiana and Ohio territories used this feature to direct more than $200,000 in donations to Share the Warmth, which was matched by CenterPoint Energy.
Energy efficiency resources: CenterPoint Energy offers energy efficiency tips, 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 www.centerpointenergy.com or call 1-866-240-8476 for a list of rebates, qualifying appliances and energy efficiency tips.
“We are here to assist our customers who are experiencing financial hardship and encourage them 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.”
Programs and services are operated under the brand CenterPoint Energy by Indiana Gas Company d/b/a CenterPoint Energy Indiana North.
CenterPoint Energy’s Indiana North territory delivers natural gas to approximately 625,000 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.
Forward Looking Statement
This news release includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. When used in this news release, the words “anticipate,” “believe,” “continue,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “forecast,” “goal,” “intend,” “may,” “objective,” “plan,” “potential,” “predict,” “projection,” “should,” “target,” “will” or other similar words are intended to identify forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon assumptions of management which are believed to be reasonable at the time made and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. Actual events and results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Any statements in this news release regarding future events, such as the expected prices of natural gas and the subsequent impact on customer bills, assumptions regarding winter weather, and any other statements that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements. Each forward-looking statement contained in this news release speaks only as of the date of this release. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by the provided forward-looking information include risks and uncertainties relating to: (1) the impact of COVID-19; (2) financial market conditions; (3) general economic conditions; (4) the timing and impact of future regulatory and legislative decisions; (5) effects of competition; (6) weather variations; (7) changes in business plans; and (8) other factors, risks and uncertainties discussed in CenterPoint Energy’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, CenterPoint Energy’s Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the quarters ended March 31, 2021 and June 30, 2021 and other reports CenterPoint Energy or its subsidiaries may file from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
About CenterPoint Energy
As the only investor-owned electric and gas utility based in Texas, CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CNP) is an energy delivery company with electric transmission and distribution, power generation and natural gas distribution operations that serve more than 7 million metered customers in Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. As of June 30, 2021, the company owned approximately $36 billion in assets and also owned 53.7 percent of the common units representing limited partner interests in Enable Midstream Partners, LP, a publicly traded master limited partnership that owns, operates and develops strategically located natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With approximately 9,500 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 150 years. For more information, visit CenterPointEnergy.com.