Heating Bills Way Up

February  05, 2014

      If you haven't paid your utility bill recently, when it does come, you're in for a shock. Extreme cold across the country has greatly increased the demand for natural gas, and that's sent the price way up.

      Tina Potthoff, from MidAmerican Energy, says the company likes to warn its customers when prices jump ten per cent or more.

      "When compared to January 2013, the January 2014 bills for Iowa customers are approximately 28 % higher and for Illinois customers we're seeing them approximately 29 % higher."

      Potthoff says the utility passes along the cost of natural gas and the delivery charge to customers dollar-for-dollar - it doesn't mark them up. 

      MidAmerican also calculates that January in Iowa and Illinois was 12 per cent colder than average, and 20 per cent colder than the same month last year.

      "The 2012-13 heating season started off with a warmer season and then it gradually got colder. This year we're starting colder, and now in the middle of that season, we're still remaining colder."

      And don't expect any relief this month - she says natural gas prices are already 16 per cent higher than January. 

      To lessen the impact, MidAmerican recommends lowering your thermostat, signing up for budget billing, and talking with the company about improving your energy efficiency. Customers worried about being able to pay their bills are encouraged to call the company to work out a payment plan or learn about assistance programs.