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MidAmerican Energy warns utility customers their bills could increase by 46-96%

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DES MOINES, Iowa (WOWT) - Your heating bill might look a little different this winter, it could be much higher for customers with MidAmerican Energy.

Citing a surge in the gas market prices, MidAmerican Energy said customers “can likely expect their total bills to increase by 46-96%” during the “heating season,” which typically runs from November through March. That increase is compared to customers' bills from the previous heating season.

Natural gas market prices have more than doubled from this time last year. Officials with MidAmerican say the increased global demand coupled with both limited production and inventory has heavily increased the cost of purchasing the natural gas it delivers to customers.

In September 2020, natural gas was priced at $1.92 per million Btu, but by September 2021 it had reached $5.16 per million Btu.

Despite the increased demand both in the U.S. and globally, MidAmerican is not expecting any supply shortages in the coming months.

“We’re not seeing signs of supply challenges this winter, but we do expect to see higher customer bills because of higher commodity prices,” said Peggi Allenback, MidAmerican vice president of market operations and supply, in a release.

Having 600,000 customers in Iowa and 4,500 in Nebraska, MidAmerican wanted to shoot a flare on Oct. 12 so its customers know that a big jump is possible.

“There are a lot of market forces in play causing that. It’s nothing that’s local. It’s a global issue. Prices are much higher on the global market than they were this time last year,” said Geoff Greenwood with MidAmerican Energy.

Last winter’s polar vortex is also a factor affecting the price of natural gas, and MidAmerican says they worked with state regulators to spread those costs out. For Iowa residents, those costs from the February 2021 weather event will continue through April 2022. In comparison, Illinois’ payback period is slated to end in March 2022, while South Dakota will finish those payments in December.

We don’t mark up what we pay for natural gas, rather the cost of the commodity is a straight pass-through to customers. We purchase a portion of gas in advance at the best possible price, and in warmer months, when gas is generally cheaper, we store it for use in winter to help protect our customers financially. Despite these efforts, though, we want our customers to understand that natural gas bills will still be higher this heating season.

Peggi Allenback, MidAmerican Energy vice president of market operations & supply

MidAmerican has locked in its supply and has lowered prices early to try to limit the damage to our pocketbooks, and urge anyone who has trouble paying to please let them know so they can work with you. Of course, all of this could change if we have a mild winter — or be worse if it’s a bitter, cold winter. So far, forecasters are expecting this winter to be slightly colder across the country than last year.

MidAmerican says customers have various financial assistance options available to them. Customers can sign up for the budget billing program, which can help ease bill fluctuations, online or by calling 888-427-5632; or they can sign up for assistance from the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. There is also temporary assistance available for MidAmerican customers having trouble paying their bills because of COVID-19.

MidAmerican has offered the following tips to increase energy efficiency at home:

  • Be smart when setting your thermostat. By setting your thermostat as low as is comfortable, you’ll save money. Set it even cooler while you’re sleeping. You can also save with a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the indoor temperature when you’re away or sleeping.
  • Service your furnace. Have your furnace serviced once a year to ensure it’s working safely and efficiently. Clean or replace filters once a month or as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your water heater to 120 degrees, which is not enough to cause scalding but is still hot enough to keep diseases at bay and is considered relatively energy efficient.
  • Seal leaks. Locate and seal any leaks from your air ducts. Use weather stripping to help seal leaky windows and doors.
  • Check your insulation. Consider whether you need to add or replace your home’s insulation. Insulation reduces energy demand in both the winter and summer.
  • Close your curtains at night. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, closing your curtains at night during the winter can help reduce heat loss in a room up to 10%. During the day, open your south-facing curtains and shades to take advantage of the sunshine

MidAmerican Energy serves electric and natural gas customers across Iowa and in Illinois, South Dakota; and natural gas customers in parts of Nebraska.

“We wanted our customers to know now that they will see an impact on their winter heating bills because of the big changes in the natural gas market — changes from last year to now,” said Greenwood.

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