Consumer Alert: Higher Energy Bills on the Way - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/29/05

Consumer Alert: Higher Energy Bills on the Way

Atmos Energy says the cost of natural gas is going to be higher than we have ever seen it this coming winter. They blame supply and demand.

Now that the cold fronts are moving in, so are higher natural gas prices, which means more on your heating bill.

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"With gas costs, the future prices for purchases, forecasted for January, we are looking over fifteen dollars in gas, and it's rising today," said Dan Alderson, Public Affairs Director for Atmos Energy.

If your average bill was $80 last January, you can expect to pay $120 this coming January. Alderson says the last time gas prices were this high was the winter of 2000-2001. He says customers who live on fixed or lower incomes had a hard time paying their bills. "I will tell you that we had a tremendous amount of bad debt. It was to the tune of $22-24 million in the winter of 2000-2001," told Alderson.

He says he doesn't want to see that happening again. This time, Alderson feels that an early warning can prepare customer for the 65 percent increase. He also says if you are one of those people who can not afford high energy bills, Atmos offers energy assistance programs.

Atmos bills went in the mail on Wednesday. You will find a box on your bill that you can check. You can donate money to the West Texas Energy Assistance Agency. That money will generate funds to help those who can not afford their bills.

Economists are predicting up to a 200% increase in all energy bills. LP&L says they expect rates to remain relatively stable. LP&L uses coal to generate its electricity, not natural gas.

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