Dominion Energy offers assistance amid rising gas prices


DAYTON — As Dominion Energy Ohio customers prepare for winter weather, they may also plan for possible increased costs to their monthly gas bills. In response, the company will offer several cost-saving programs.

Greater demand and decreased natural gas levels nation-wide have resulted in “tightening supplies and market uncertainty” heading into the heating season, said Jim Eck, vice president and general manager of Dominion Energy Ohio. National gas inventories are below the five-year average heading into winter. Contributing to the low levels were above average withdrawals from storage last winter due to cold weather.

Dominion Energy Ohio customers can be assured of sufficient natural gas supplies for this coming winter, says Eck. Additionally, his customers currently “have access to some of the lowest prices in the market,” and, should an increase in drilling activity for 2022 go forward as expected, prices could continue to decrease.

To manage winter energy bills, Dominion Energy Ohio’s assistance programs are available for those in need, specifically, its Ohio Payment Plans, Energy Assistance Programs, and Energy Choice programs.

Its Energy Choice program allows eligible customers to compare and select from approved natural gas suppliers using the PUCO website’s “Apples to Apples” chart at www.energychoice.ohio.gov or by calling 800-686-7826.

Households experiencing financial hardship, including difficulty affording their heating bills, are urged to contact Dominion Energy Ohio immediately about its payment plans, described below, by visiting https://www.dominionenergy.com/ohio/billing/billing-options-and-assistance or calling 800-362-7557.

Its Energy Payment Plans empower residential and commercial customers with the ability to catch up over time through short-term payment extensions or long-term payment plans, which include:

* Budget Billing establishes a fixed monthly budget based on annual gas usage. Dominion Energy Ohio periodically reviews the budget amount and adjusts it, if necessary, to avoid a high balance or large credit at the end of the budget year.

* Short-Term Extension grants permit up to five additional days to pay before the next bill date.

For those with past due balances, catching up can be done creatively. Other than paying the total past due all at once.

*NBudget Plus offers customers with past due balances the flexibility to paying the calculated budget payment, plus an amount against any past-due balance over a period of seven to 12 months.

*NCurrent-Plus Plan enables customers with past due balances another alternative — paying the current monthly bill plus an installment of the total balance at the time of enrolment spread over multiple months.

* The One-Ninth Plan permits customers with past due balances yet a third option: paying a special budget amount, plus one of nine equal payments of their past-due amount each month.

* Under the One-Third Winter Heating Plan, customers pay one-third of their total account balance each month for bills that include gas used from November 1, 2021, through April 15, 2022.

* EnergyShare is a last resort program available only to Dominion Energy Ohio residential customers facing a financial hardship. It is administered by the Salvation Army and funded by company contributions, along with donations from customers and employees for those who have exhausted all other forms of energy assistance and are ineligible for Ohio’s Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP Plus) program. To be eligible, yearly gross household income must be at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. (Those income levels are $38,640 for one person; $52,260 for two people; $65,880 for three; $79,500 for four; $93,120 for five; $106,740 for six; $120,360, for seven; and $133,980 for eight. Add $13,620 for each additional person). There are additional eligibility qualifications, depending on the time of year assistance is needed:

—Between Oct. 1, 2021, and May 31, 2022, or until funds run out, a maximum payment of $500 is available. Additional eligibility allows for unemployment of the head of a household is unemployed or experiencing financial hardship.

— Between Dec. 1, 2021, and May 31, 2022, or until funds run out, a maximum payment of $300 available. Additional eligibility allows for PIPP Plus Customers, once they use Winter Crisis Program (Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program) funds, as a last resort to avoid disconnection.

Dominion Energy also offers multiple no-cost or low-cost energy conservation programs to help customers lower their bills.

* Dominion Energy Ohio’s Housewarming Program provides weatherization assistance to help income-eligible customers reduce their energy usage. For information, call CHN Housing Partners (formerly Cleveland Housing Network), at 216-325-1149, or go to https://chnhousingpartners.org/energyservices/.

* Dominion Energy Ohio’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES) Program helps residential customers improve their new or current homes’ energy efficiency with a $25 home energy assessment and improvement rebates of up to $1,250. Customers may call 1-877-287-3416 to schedule an assessment or visit www.deohpwes.com for program details and eligibility information.

Beyond Dominion Energy’s programs are five state government programs to help customers stay warm this winter.

* The PUCO Winter Reconnection Order assists all residential customers, regardless of income, to avoid a shutoff or restore gas service once during the heating season, between Oct. 18, 2021, and April 15, 2022. Customers pay the lesser of $175 or the entire past-due balance (or, if on a payment plan, the past-due payments). Should the service be disconnected, customers will be charged a $33 reconnection fee plus applicable taxes and automatically enrolled in the One-Ninth Payment Plan to help pay past-due balances.

* Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP Plus) assists any customer whose yearly gross household income is up to 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Effective Nov. 1, 2021, PIPP Plus customers may maintain their natural gas service by paying 5 percent of their total gross monthly household income, or $10, whichever is greater. Additionally, each time customers make their required PIPP Plus monthly payment in full by the due date, Dominion Energy Ohio rewards them by crediting their account for the rest of that month’s current charges, plus a one-twenty-fourth credit toward their prior account balances. After 24 months of on-time and in-full PIPP Plus payments, their accounts will become current.

* Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides a one-time heating bill credit during the winter heating season. HEAP is available to customers whose yearly gross household income is up to 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

* The Winter Crisis Program (WCP), previously known as Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (E-HEAP), provides a one-time grant to help avoid a shutoff or to restore service once between Nov. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022. WCP is available to customers whose yearly gross income is up to 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP) is a federally funded program that provides grants for home weatherization projects to customers whose incomes are no more than 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

A single application for income-eligible programs (HEAP, PIPP, EPP, and HWAP) is available as an online form at www.energyhelp.ohio.gov. Applications also are available at libraries, some banks, local home energy assistance providers, or by calling the Ohio Department of Development at 800-282-0880. Hearing-impaired customers with Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf can call 711.