For the Weekly Record Herald
MIAMI COUNTY — The Energy Information Administration (EIA) issued its winter outlook forecasting heating bills, on a national average, will decrease when compared to last winter, which was about 7 percent colder than normal in Ohio.
This winter, Vectren customers will see lower bills should weather remain normal this heating season.
The average Vectren customer paid around $90 per month for natural gas service during the 2014-2015 heating season for a five-month total (November – March) of about $450.
“It is good news for customers that low gas prices this winter should yield lower bills,” said Colleen Ryan, president of Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio. “Because natural gas costs continue to be relatively low, customers should expect to pay less over the five-month season if we see normal, winter temperatures.”
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 note the customer’s natural gas supplier and corresponding price per unit of gas also influences bill amounts. Keep in mind — Vectren customers can choose their natural gas supplier” added Ryan. “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. The price of natural gas represents around 60 percent of the bill during the winter months, so now is a good time to explore supplier pricing options.”
Natural gas continues to be recognized as the most affordable heating source according to EIA. In fact, Vectren Ohio gas customers who heated their homes with natural gas last year saved up to $1000 compared to those who heat with propane and $250 to $875 compared to those who heat with an electric heat pump or electric furnace, respectively.
Vectren has in place a number of tools to help customers manage their energy bills.
Choice program — Through Vectren’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.vectrenchoice.com for a list of suppliers and up-to-date prices.
Energy efficiency programs — Offers appliance rebates and new energy-saving tools to help customers to lower their natural gas bills. All Ohio residential and small commercial natural gas customers are eligible. A conservation call center (866) 240-8476 is also available to help customers focus on conservation. Visit Vectren.com for a list of rebates and qualifying appliances.
· 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. Typically, amounts are adjusted annually for actual costs and the customer’s credit or amount due rolls into the next calculation. A mid-winter recalculation may occur for some customers if gas costs significantly change during the heating season. Customers can enroll for free at www.vectren.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 within 175 percent of federal poverty guidelines, which would be about $42,000 for a family of four, to apply.
· Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (E-HEAP): E-HEAP provides assistance once per heating season to eligible households that are disconnected or are threatened with disconnection. Households must fall within 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 6 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 (PUCO), must have a total household income which is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty, which would be about $35,000 for a family of four, and must apply for all energy assistance programs for which he or she is eligible.
· Project TEEM: Vectren’s Project TEEM (Teaching Energy Efficiency Measures) helps qualifying Ohio customers implement energy efficiency improvements to their homes at no cost. Households must fall within 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines, which would be about $70,000 for a family of four, to apply. Call 1-800-617-2673 to learn more or visit www.cap-dayton.org.
· 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 aid Vectren Ohio customers, may be tax-deductible, and can be sent to Share the Warmth, P.O. Box 931, Evansville, IN 47706-0931 or visit www.sharethewarmthinc.com.
“We know many still find themselves in need of financial assistance, and we encourage them to reach out to us before they get behind on payments” said Ryan. “Programs like HEAP and Project TEEM are critical in helping customers manage costs and stay warm. We encourage customers to contact their local community action agency today and apply for financial and/or home weatherization assistance.”
Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio delivers natural gas to approximately 315,000 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.