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Winter natural gas bills seen continuing at decade-low levels

Friday, October 12, 2012

Natural gas prices that for the past three years have remained stable and relatively low are expected to again translate to manageable bills for Vectren customers.

The utility has announced that assuming normal winter weather this year, customers could see bills that are as much as five percent lower.

Abundant gas supply in the U.S. has resulted in natural gas costs 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. "Moreover, the price of gas is expected to remain relatively stable for years to come."

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.

Keep in mind, last winter was very 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."

Vectren has in place a number of tools to help customers manage their energy bills.

Conservation Connection -- Offers appliance rebates and new energy-saving tools to help customers lower natural gas bills. All Indiana residential and small commercial natural gas customers are eligible. A conservation call center 1-866-240-8476 is also available to help customers focus on conservation.

Budget Bill: Under this billing plan, a customer's estimated costs for a year of gas service are spread out 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 at www.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 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.

Universal Service Program (USP): All eligible natural gas 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 percent of the total bill (not including EAP benefits) in the months of December through May.

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, 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.shar-ethewarmthinc.com.



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