New millennium brings price increases |

New millennium brings price increases

Higher natural gas, AT&T cable bills hitting Northwest Colorado residents in the wallet

Most people don’t realize how much it costs to go through a cold winter, but they are paying the price in the form of increasing natural gas bills.

Karen Wilkes, manager of public affairs for Greeley Gas Company, said the price of natural gas has gone up dramatically. Since the first of January, the cost of natural gas per ccf (hundred cubic feet) has gone from 69 cents to 88 cents. This increase comes in the wake of a November cost increase, making the cost of running utilities on natural gas more expensive this winter.

“The price increase is very substantial,” Wilkes said.

Some Craig residents are being hit hard by the increase, especially senior citizens and people on fixed incomes.

Craig resident Wilma Boyd is a senior on a fixed income who has seen her natural gas prices rise more than 100 percent since October.

“I paid $28.10 in October and this month I paid $99,” Boyd said. “It’s rough when your on a fixed budget. I had to dig into my savings to pay it. It’s going to go back to where the old folks are going to live with their kids if it doesn’t change.”

Wilkes said people can blame the increase on mother nature. The fact that most of the U.S. is experiencing a colder-than-average winter is driving the cost of natural gas sky high, not only in Colorado, but across the country.

“November and December were the two coldest months in the U.S. in the last 100 years and that is the main factor driving gas prices up,” Wilkes said.

The increased use of natural gas in the generation of electricity has also driven prices up.

“We normally change gas rates once a year and usually it is when the demand gets higher in the winter, but because there was a lot of electricity being generated by natural gas, demand stayed high throughout the summer,” Wilkes said.

The increase in price isn’t going to line the pockets of Greeley Gas Company. According to Wilkes, the company doesn’t make a profit from natural gas, they merely distribute it, and only profit from distribution fees.

Reserves of natural gas are high and production is increasing, but for those who power their appliances with natural gas, the effects of the increase in production won’t be seen for some time.

“We won’t see the benefits for quite a while,” Wilkes said. “It will take a while to catch up.”

Right now, the best Greeley Gas Company customers can hope for is a warm January and February. Wilkes said the largest factor affecting gas prices is cold weather. Prices can drop dramatically even after a few warm days, but it takes a while for the lower prices to filter down to customers, he said.

“Prices are very weather related and right now we don’t want to speculate on future prices,” Wilkes said. “We don’t want to lower it and then have to turn around and raise prices again.”

Assistance programs

There are certain programs that can help keep natural gas prices from putting a damper on winter fun. Greeley Gas Company offers a program called budget billing. The budget billing program allows residents to average 12 months of bills and pay the same amount each month. This lets people budget in the cost of natural gas more accurately and better absorb increases.

If a customer decides to sign up for budget billing, Greeley Gas Company will average out the cost of natural gas from the previous year. The customer pays the average amount for 11 months and pays the difference in the 12th month. If a customer’s average is higher than the amount of natural gas they actually used, Greeley Gas will send a rebate for the difference.

The program allows people to offset the high cost of natural gas during the winter throughout the whole year, but customers have to keep on top of their account so they don’t get hit with a huge bill in the 12th month.

Another program to help people afford their high gas bills is LEAP (Low-income Energy Assistance Program). The state program is essentially aid for energy bills. People don’t necessarily need to be low income to qualify for the program. It is also designed to help people on a fixed income. This year, the state gave additional funding to the program.

For more information call (800) 782-0721 or (866) 432-8435.

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