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Help is available for customers facing high heating bills as a result of significantly higher natural gas prices and the coldest winter in three decades, Xcel Energy said March 18.
“We know many customers are struggling to pay their heating bills, and we’re here to help them find financial assistance and set up payment arrangements,” said Mark Stoering, president and CEO of Northern States Power Co.-Wisconsin, an Xcel Energy company.
Stoering noted that federal energy assistance funds for low-income customers are still available through the states of Wisconsin and Michigan and there is also money available from heating assistance organizations such as the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund and Salvation Army’s HeatShare program. “Xcel Energy customers who need help paying their bills should call 1-800-895-4999, and our customer representatives will help them set up payment arrangements and also refer them to the appropriate agencies to determine if they’re eligible for assistance,” Stoering said.
Xcel Energy projects residential customers’ heating bills in Wisconsin and Michigan for the five winter months (November through March), will be approximately 30 percent higher than last winter. For example:
• In Wisconsin, a typical customer whose heating bill totaled about $450 for the winter of 2012-13 will pay an estimated $590 this winter.
• In Michigan, a typical customer whose heating bill totaled about $370 for the winter of 2012-13 will pay an estimated $490 this winter.
The bulk of the increase is due to natural gas prices that are about 25 percent higher than last winter. The commodity cost passes directly to customers; Xcel Energy does not benefit from higher natural gas prices. Bills also increased because residential customers used more natural gas than last winter due to cold weather.
Stoering also reminded customers that Xcel Energy has a variety of programs and home services to help them learn how to use natural gas more efficiently. “We also provide programs in partnership with Focus on Energy in Wisconsin and Efficiency United in Michigan,” he said.
Customers can learn more about Xcel Energy’s energy conservation programs by visiting www.responsiblebynature.com or by calling 1-800-895-4999.