Due to current market price projections for natural gas and assuming normal winter weather, NIPSCO natural gas customers could expect to see increased costs this winter compared to last year, which is a trend across much of the country.
Each year, NIPSCO and other Indiana energy providers provide a forecast for home heating bills during the upcoming cold weather season. Projections take into account market forecasts, supply trends and storage levels, and are based on normal weather projections. If temperatures are colder or warmer than normal, usage amounts and bills could differ.
NIPSCO has been the lowest natural gas cost provider in Indiana on average over the last 10 years according to IURC comparisons (Source: Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s 2021 Residential Bill Survey).
There are two primary components of natural gas bills – the cost of the natural gas itself and the cost of delivering the natural gas to customers. For the cost of natural gas itself – which is largely dependent upon the market prices – NIPSCO does not control these costs; the company passes them directly through to customers with no markup and does not profit on that portion of the bill. Before billing, natural gas commodity costs must be reviewed and approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). Keeping costs down related to the delivery of natural gas to homes and businesses is essential, and NIPSCO is actively working to institute technologies and other system improvements to create long-term efficiencies for the benefit of customers.
Over the course of the upcoming five month winter heating season — Nov. 1 to March 31 — NIPSCO’s average natural gas residential customers using 630 therms could expect to pay approximately $590 total. This compares to $422 last winter, and it represents about a $168 difference (40 percent) or $34 per month on average from Nov. to March.
To help ensure customers receive the best price for natural gas, NIPSCO purchases gas in the market from a variety of supply sources throughout the year. Gas storage is also used to help offset market price volatility. NIPSCO’s gas distribution system consists of two on-system storage facilities and connects to seven interstate pipelines providing access to major North American supply basins.
There are a multitude of factors contributing to the anticipated increase in costs this winter season, including that natural gas market prices are 92 percent higher than last winter and U.S. storage balances are behind last year’s total and the five-year average storage balance at this time of year. Global demand for natural gas and a ramp up in industry operation is also putting pressure on the supply of natural gas. And, the lowered storage balances have driven up pricing in the short-term.
The winter bill projections provided do not relate to NIPSCO’s recent request made with the IURC in September to increase its natural gas base rates. That request will go through a comprehensive regulatory review process and any changes will not take effect until after a decision is made – expected in the second half of 2022.
Billing and Payment Options Customers who are experiencing financial difficulties are encouraged to visit nipsco.com/assistance or call NIPSCO’s Customer Care Center as soon as possible to determine what options might be available to offer help. Some of those solutions include:
· Payment Agreements: NIPSCO has expanded its flexible payment arrangements to allow customers to spread their past due balance over six months by paying a portion of their past due balance, plus current charges incurred. LIHEAP-eligible customers may be able to enroll in a 12-month plan. Customers can learn more and enroll at NIPSCO.com/paymentplans. NIPSCO’s customer care team will also work with customers to set up a personalized payment plan. Customers can call 1-800-4-NIPSCO (1-800-464-7726) to discuss options.
· Payment Assistance Programs: Based on income levels, customers may qualify to receive local,state and federal utility assistance dollars as well as support funds from separate NIPSCO programs. Customers can visit NIPSCO.com/Assistance to find additional resources, or call their local community action agency, Energy Assistance Program (EAP) agency or Township Trustee’s office. Between Dec. 1 and March 15, natural gas providers in Indiana do not disconnect service to customers enrolled in the state Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) who are delinquent on their home heating bills.
· Budget Plan: A free service to all NIPSCO customers to help manage their monthly energy bills by spreading out gas costs over an entire year.
The Customer Care Center is open Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT. For more information on billing options and payment assistance, visit NIPSCO.com/assistance.
Energy-and Money-Saving Programs Usage makes up the largest portion of the average energy bill. Because of this, NIPSCO offers energy efficiency programs to help manage usage and, in turn, bills. A full list of programs and tips available to NIPSCO customers can be found at NIPSCO.com/SaveEnergy.