Natural gas bills going up


If you have a gas furnace, be prepared to pay more to keep warm.

CenterPoint Energy, the Houston-based utility company that acquired Vectren a few years ago, says its natural gas customers will likely see a significant increase in their natural gas bills when compared to last winter.

On average, the monthly bill is expected to be $130 a month from November through March, company officials said. By comparison, last year’s average bill for the same period was about $88 a month.

The actual bill will vary depending on the size and age of your home, number of gas appliances, household size, thermostat settings and levels of insulation, the company said.

The anticipated hike is based in part upon expected natural gas commodity costs and normal winter weather, said Richard Leger, vice president of natural gas distribution for CenterPoint in Indiana and Ohio. Other significant factors include global demand and lower production, he said.

Natural gas is a commodity bought and sold in a national deregulated market, where prices fluctuate daily due to supply and demand pressures.

Utilities such as CenterPoint in the Hoosier State are not allowed to mark up or 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, Leger said.

Customers are encouraged to consider a number of energy efficiency measures and find ways to use less natural gas to lower bills.

There also are ways that individuals and families can better manage their energy bills or receive assistance. They include:

Budget billing: Under this billing plan, a customer’s estimated cost for a year of gas service is spread in equal monthly bill amounts for the year. This reduces the need to pay the full amount in the winter and spreads some of the higher charges into the nonheating 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 sign up for budget billing at or by calling 800-227-1376.

Energy Assistance Program: State and federal utility assistance dollars are available for income-eligible customers. Jackson County residents who fall within 60% of state median income should contact Human Services Inc. at 812-522-8718. Customers also may apply any time at the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority website at

Universal Service Program: All eligible natural gas heating customers who apply and qualify for the Energy Assistance Program will automatically be enrolled in the Universal Service Program, which provides additional gas bill reductions ranging from 15 to 32% of the total bill from December through May. The program provides about $1.5 million in assistance each year to roughly 18,000 CenterPoint customers in Indiana. The financial help includes 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.

CenterPoint Energy delivers natural gas and electricity to 48 of Indiana’s 92 counties, including Jackson, Bartholomew, Decatur, Johnson and Shelby.

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