DAYTON – Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio, a CenterPoint Energy company, announced customers should expect their natural gas bills to remain relatively flat to those experienced last winter, assuming normal winter weather year-over-year.
Low and stable natural gas prices continue to help customers’ bill amounts remain affordable.
The average Vectren customer paid $85 per month for natural gas service during the 2018-19 heating season for a five-month total (November-March) of about $430.
“In the event we experience normal winter weather – as we did last year – customers could see similar bill amounts this season thanks to continued low, stable natural gas prices,” said Richard Leger, vice president of Natural Gas Distribution, Indiana and Ohio. “Gas bills continue to remain very affordable compared to historic highs we’ve experienced in the past.”
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.
“Keep in mind – Vectren is not a natural gas supplier. The customer’s natural gas supplier and corresponding price per unit of gas also influence bill amounts,” Leger said. “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 50-55 percent of the bill during the winter months, so now is a good time to explore supplier pricing options.”
Vectren has in place several 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. Individuals can visit www.vectrenchoice.com for a list of suppliers and up-to-date prices.
• Energy efficiency programs: Vectren offers appliance rebates and new energy-saving tools to help customers lower their natural gas bills. All Ohio residential and small commercial natural gas customers are eligible. A conservation call center at 1-866-240-8476 also is available to help customers focus on conservation. Individuals can 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 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 annual 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: 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 up to about $45,063 for a family of four, to apply.
• Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program: 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 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, must have a total household income which is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which would be up to $38,625 for a family of four, and must apply for all energy assistance programs for which he or she is eligible.
• Home weatherization: Vectren’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, which would be about $77,250 for a family of four, to apply. Individuals can call 1-800-617-2673 to learn more or visit www.miamivalleycap.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. Donations 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. Customers who pay their bills at Vectren.com may donate through a bill round-up feature. In 2018, more than 130,000 across all Vectren territories used this feature to direct donations to Share the Warmth. This option contributed nearly $133,000, which was matched by Vectren.
“If customers are experiencing financial hardship and get behind on payments or are in need of financial assistance, there are several options to help manage costs, and we encourage them to make contact,” Leger said. “Programs like HEAP and Vectren’s Home Weatherization 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.