Northern Indiana Public Service Company LLC (NIPSCO) is informing customers that based on positive shifts in recent market trends, near-term prices for natural gas have dropped to levels that haven’t been seen since the early 2021 time frame. Meanwhile, the trend also has had a positive effect on electric bills, combined with upcoming credits that will soon be applied from the sale of excess electricity generated by the company’s wind and solar farms.
Natural Gas Prices 25 to 35 Percent Lower
Throughout 2022, natural gas commodity prices have been unusually high because of lower production volumes from domestic supplies compared to previous years, greater global demand due to European energy supply concerns, the ongoing foreign conflicts and storage balances that were behind during that time of year. NIPSCO does not mark up the price it pays for the natural gas used by homes and businesses, and the customers pay the same dollar-fordollar cost NIPSCO pays. The cost of natural gas is one of the largest determining factors of gas customers’ bills and directly impacts electric customers’ bills as well.
However, NIPSCO has taken steps to mitigate and help control these price increases for customers. The company buys gas during the summer, when prices are typically lower than other times in the year, to be injected into underground storage to help offset peak prices and limit fluctuations. The company is also able to purchase natural gas from a variety of sources across North America, always looking for the best price for customers.
The company is now seeing the market price for natural gas coming down, which should further positively affect customer bills.
“We are seeing a decline in market prices for natural gas, ranging from 25 to 35 percent lower than what was previously forecasted for customers at this point in the year,” said Mike Hooper, NIPSCO president. “The market has declined due to increased production combined with reduced customer usage from the milder winter weather. As a result, our customers may begin to experience some relief on their natural gas bills in the coming months ahead.”
Before billing, natural gas commodity costs must be reviewed and approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).
Meanwhile, managing costs related to the delivery of natural gas to homes and businesses is essential, and NIPSCO is working to institute technologies and other system improvements to create long-term efficiencies for the benefit of customers.
Positive Effects on Electric Bills
The recent market trends for energy prices and other factors are also having a positive effect on NIPSCO electric bills.
To maintain reliability and resiliency for the electric system, NIPSCO uses a diverse mix of generating resources to provide electricity to its customers – including electricity generated from renewable wind and solar, natural gas and planned-to-be-retired coal resources. And in order to operate the company’s natural gas and remaining coal-fired electric generating stations, the company purchases those fuels from the market.
Because the cost to purchase those fuel sources has come down, NIPSCO filed a request with the IURC to adjust the part of the electric bill associated with those purchases. The change, which would begin May 2023 pending IURC approval, represents a $19.85 decrease per month for the average residential electric customer.
Included in that decrease are credits associated with the sale of excess electricity being generated by the company’s largely Indiana-based renewable energy.* When NIPSCO provides enough energy to meet the needs of its customers, the company can sell excess power back to the broader grid system for use beyond NIPSCO’s customer base.
“In addition to the role renewable energy plays in helping to balance how we generate electricity, our customers receive 100 percent of the revenues when we’re able to sell the excess electricity being generated,” said Hooper. “In 2022, we generated $40 million in revenue, and we expect that opportunity to grow as our upcoming renewable projects become operational throughout this year and beyond. As we continually work to manage other operating costs across the company, the revenue credits and lower commodity costs are providing tangible benefits for our customers.”
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 Plans: Flexible payment plans are available for customers who need financial support, including a three-month or six-month option for all customers and a 12-month option for eligible LIHEAP customers. 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.
• 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.
For more information on billing options and payment assistance, visit NIPSCO.com/assistance. Customers can review and manage their account via NIPSCO’s new mobile app, available for download on iPhone or Android. Those looking to quickly find information 24 hours a day, seven days a week can use NIPSCO’s new Chat feature located in the bottom right-hand corner of its website (NIPSCO.com) or via the mobile app. Customers may also contact the NIPSCO Customer Care Center at 1-800-4-NIPSCO Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT.
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, rebates and tips available to NIPSCO customers can be found at NIPSCO.com/saveenergy.