NIPSCO: Indiana Customers' Winter Bills Up to 60% Higher
Unlike San Diego consumers for whom skyrocketing utility bills
came as a hugely unpleasant surprise, natural gas customers in
Indiana have been warned in advance to expect to expect much higher
bills this winter. The message to Indiana consumers last week was
similar to those being broadcast all across the country by
government and utility officials anxious to moderate the intense
public reaction manifest in California.
This winter the heat will be on natural gas, and the Indiana
Utility Regulatory Commission turned out the troops for a natural
gas forum to warn and explain that natural gas bills during the
peak winter months could be 50% to 60% higher than last year.
Indiana utilities, including representatives of Northern Indiana
Public Service Co. (NIPSCO), a subsidiary of NiSource Inc., and the
American Gas Association, said they were working now to get the
word out and help consumers and businesses prepare for what their
winter heating bills may look like.
"While early winter weather and other factors can still affect
the actual gas prices we see this winter, we are informing
customers to plan on increases of 50% to 60% in their natural gas
bills in December 2000, and January and February 2001 when compared
to the same months last heating season," said Jeffrey Yundt,
NiSource Inc.'s executive vice president. "This comparison assumes
normal winter temperatures this heating season versus last season's
milder than normal winter."
Yundt said that a combination of decreased production during
1997 and 1998, and an increased demand by business and industry
because of the strong economy has "created an imbalance" in the
market. "While new production in response to higher gas prices has
taken place, it can take six to 18 months for these new supplies to
reach the market and have an impact on prices."
Even if prices are higher, NIPSCO, the largest natural gas
distributor in Indiana and second largest electric distribution
company, does not expect to have supply problems. It now has about
700,000 natural gas customers and 416,000 electricity customers.
With access to eight interstate pipelines and up to 100 suppliers,
it also has a new contract with the Vector pipeline, which will
deliver Canadian gas later this year. It also has "significant
storage facilities," said Yundt and a "distribution system to meet
the demands of our customers."
Carolyn Davis, Houston
©Copyright 2000 Intelligence Press, Inc. All rights
reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or
redistributed in whole or in part without prior written consent of
Intelligence Press, Inc.