CenterPoint Energy’s Ohio natural gas territory recently announced customers may see a significant increase in their natural gas bills when compared to those experienced last winter, assuming normal winter weather, due primarily to a rise in natural gas prices.
The average CenterPoint Energy customer paid $81 per month for natural gas service during the 2020-2021 heating season for a five-month total (November – March) of about $406.
“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.”
Natural gas continues to be recognized as the most affordable heating source according to a report issued by the Energy Information Association. In fact, CenterPoint Energy Ohio gas customers who heated their homes with natural gas last year saved $800 compared to those who heat with propane and $195 to $725 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.
“It’s important to remember CenterPoint Energy is not a natural gas supplier. The customer’s natural gas supplier and corresponding price per unit of gas also influence bill amounts,” added Leger. “Some customers prefer a fixed price that won’t fluctuate over the winter while others prefer to stay on a variable rate, which changes according to the natural gas market. As the price of natural gas represents approximately 45 percent of the bill during the winter months, now would be a good time to explore supplier pricing options.”
CenterPoint Energy has in place several tools to help customers manage their energy bills:
—Choice program: Through CenterPoint Energy’s natural gas Choice program, customers can choose a natural gas supplier that’s right for them. Competing suppliers offer more pricing options for consumers, such as locking in a fixed rate, which allows them to comparison shop for energy the way they do for other products and services. Customers who do not choose a third-party supplier are served by one of five default Standard Choice Offer suppliers at a variable rate. Visit www.centerpointenergy.com/choice for a list of suppliers and up-to-date prices.
—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.
—Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP): State and federal utility assistance dollars are available for income-eligible customers. Households must fall at or below 175 percent of federal poverty guidelines to apply.
—HEAP Winter Crisis Program: The HEAP Winter Crisis Program provides assistance once per heating season to eligible households that are disconnected or are threatened with disconnection. Households must fall at or below 175 percent of federal poverty guidelines to apply.
—Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP Plus): PIPP Plus calls for a qualified household to pay 5 percent of its monthly income for gas service throughout the year. To be eligible for the PIPP Plus program, a customer must receive his or her primary or secondary heat source from a company regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, must have a total household income which is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level and must apply for all energy assistance programs for which he or she is eligible.
—Home weatherization: CenterPoint Energy’s home weatherization program helps qualifying Ohio customers implement energy efficiency improvements to their homes at no cost. Households must fall within 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines to apply. Visit www.miamivalleycap.org to learn more.
—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 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 programs: CenterPoint Energy offers energy efficiency tips, appliance rebates and energy-saving tools to help customers lower their natural gas bills. All Ohio 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 Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio, Inc. d/b/a CenterPoint Energy Ohio.
CenterPoint Energy’s Ohio natural gas service territory delivers natural gas to approximately 328,000 customers in all or portions of Auglaize, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Darke, Fayette, Greene, Highland, Logan, Madison, Miami, Montgomery, Pickaway, Preble, Shelby and Warren counties.