With seasonal cold weather on the horizon, paired with an increase in the cost of natural gas customers are facing across the globe, Piedmont Natural Gas is reminding customers of tips, tools and assistance programs available to help customers prepare for higher winter bills.
“Natural gas market prices are higher due to the economic recovery from strong natural gas demand from last winter, along with slower than anticipated production this year,” said Richard Meyer, vice president, energy markets, analysis and standards, American Gas Association. “However, the U.S. natural gas market remains well supplied and is prepared to serve customers throughout the winter. The weather and the market can impact utility bills, and consumer conservation can help reduce bill impacts, so it is a good time to make sure your household is prepared before cold weather hits.”
As a natural gas distributor, Piedmont purchases natural gas at the best possible price and then passes this cost directly to customers. In addition to this increasing commodity cost of natural gas, which the company makes no profit from, rate increases approved by public utility commissions in North Carolina and South Carolina will go into effect Nov. 1 to cover safety and infrastructure investments to better serve customers.
As of Nov. 1, the estimated cumulative monthly bill increase for the fuel cost and rate increase for the average residential customer in North Carolina will be approximately $11.34 per month or $136 per year, compared to rates in effect this summer. Customers in South Carolina can expect a similar increase of approximately $11.00 per month or $132 per year, compared to rates in effect this summer.
“Our goal is twofold – to keep rates low while still performing the vital safety and infrastructure work that allows Piedmont to deliver safe and reliable natural gas service to customers,” said Sasha Weintraub, Piedmont Natural Gas senior vice president. “We recognize we still are in challenging economic times, and rate increases, combined with approaching cold weather and higher natural gas prices, create additional hardships for some customers.
Weintraub continued, “We are committed to helping our customers and are taking steps to protect our most vulnerable customers by suspending disconnections until March 2022, for customers who qualify, and reaching out proactively to make sure they know assistance is available.”
Equal Payment Program (EPP)
This free service helps customers manage their budgets by eliminating high winter bills. The EPP program levels out a customer’s natural gas bills, allowing them to pay a predictable, equal monthly amount to help avoid billing surprises. Piedmont determines this payment by adding up a customer’s annual natural gas usage and then dividing it into the same payment amount each month. Learn more here.
Assistance for Customers in Need
Piedmont is reaching out to customers whose bills are past due through email and/or text with information about utility assistance administered by agencies in their state and local communities. Customers who may not have qualified for assistance in the past may now qualify due to expanded eligibility criteria during the pandemic. Increased levels of assistance also may be available for those who qualified and have already received assistance.
The Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) provides winter heating assistance to pay for gas, electric and other methods customers use to heat their homes. There are many customers who are eligible, but do not apply for this annual Federal benefit that can reduce winter heating costs for low-income families. The links below can provide information on how to apply locally:
- TN: https://thda.org/business-partners/liheap
- NC: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/assistance/low-income-services
- SC: http://oeo.sc.gov/liheap.html
Piedmont says anyone in need should apply for this and other newly available programs to see if they qualify. For detailed federal and state-specific information, go to www.piedmontng.com/winterbills and click on your state.
Low- to no-cost energy saving tips and projects
Natural gas use typically spikes in the winter as customers combat low temperatures to stay warm. Below are tips to help prepare for cold weather and manage your energy use.
- Learn how to reduce energy use. The first step to reduce energy use in your home is to identify and prioritize energy-saving improvements. This can be accomplished through a certified auditor or by performing your own energy audit.
- Seal air ducts. Make sure the air ducts from your home’s furnace and central air conditioner are properly sealed. Ducts that leak into the attic or crawl space can substantially increase your heating and cooling bills.
- Seal your home. One of the quickest energy-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal and weather-strip all seams, cracks and openings to the outside. This can save 10% to 20% on your heating and cooling bills.
- Install smart thermostats. Installing a “smart” or programmable thermostat will reduce your energy use while you are asleep or away.
- Manage water heating. Set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or consider installing an on-demand or tankless water heater that only heats water when you need it.
- Consider insulation. Consider whether you need to add insulation to your ceiling, floors and walls. Insulation between the indoors and outdoors reduces energy demand, saving you money while improving the comfort of your home.
Piedmont Natural Gas also offers a variety of energy-saving tools to help customers and our communities identify ways to save money and energy all year long. These programs and tools to help customers understand what factors are impacting their natural gas bills and emphasize specific actions they can take to reduce the impacts of high winter usage.
Piedmont Natural Gas
Piedmont Natural Gas, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, is an energy services company whose principal business is the distribution of natural gas to more than 1 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The company also supplies natural gas to power plants. Piedmont is routinely recognized by J.D. Power for excellent customer satisfaction, and has been named by Cogent Reports as one of the most trusted utility brands in the U.S.