Following weeks of intense cold weather last month, electric and natural gas customers in Iowa may get a break. Worried about the possibility of sharply higher bills resulting from the polar vortex, the Iowa Utilities Board has asked utility companies to lessen the impact.
Board spokesman Don Tormey says customers will still have to pay, but the companies may make it easier to pay.
"The utilities are, under Iowa law, allowed to recover the cost from the polar vortex, but rather than give rate shock to customers, the board has taken action to ask the utilities to spread the cost over subsequent payment periods."
The higher costs could be spread out over months or even years. Tormey says the exact impact on utllity customers of the polar vortex isn't known, and not all of the companies have filed their cost recovery plans yet. They include MidAmerican Energy, Alliant Energy, Liberty Utilities, and Black Hills Energy.
The Iowa Utilities Board has also asked the companies to look for possible ways to reduce the impact of future cold weather events.
For people struggling to pay their utility bills, Tormey says they should contact their provider directly to set up budget billing payment plans, and ask their local community action agency for help in applying for LIHEAP, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.