Natural Gas Prices are High,
What Can Customers Do?
Last winter, unseasonably warm
temperatures and contributions from the Rate Stabilization Fund,
helped control the natural gas bills of Hastings Utilities'
customers. January 2006 was the warmest January ever since weather
records have been kept.
Despite those factors, prices for wholesale natural gas were
extremely expensive and some customers still had their highest
heating bills ever. Supply contracts for the winter period of
2006-2007 are currently even higher than they were for last winter.
Unless prices ease, and if the winter weather is typical or
unusually cold, customers may be faced with record billing amounts.
If this is a concern for you, consider enrolling in HU's Budget
Billing Program (see below).
/ Automatic Bank Drafts
Utilities offers its customers several payment options that are
quite popular, budget billing and automatic bank drafts. Each can
give a customer "peace of mind" when away on travel or when planning
Budget billing allows customers
to receive a bill that they can financially plan for. For example,
let us assume that a customer's total utility bill (for electric,
gas, water and sanitary sewer) for the last twelve months totals
$1,200. To figure the budget billing amount for the next eleven
months the $1,200 total is divided by eleven. The budget billing
payment for the next eleven months becomes $110.00 per month or
($1,200 / 11). Each of the next eleven months, our customer would
receive a bill showing their actual usage. The budget payment amount
would be $110.00. Also noted on each of those bills would be the
difference between the budget billing amount and what the actual
utility usage has been.
After the first eleven
months of each budget billing year, if there is a balance due
Hastings Utilities, that balance plus the usage of the twelfth month
is the utility bill for the 12th month. If the customer has overpaid
Hastings Utilities during the budget billing year, the overpayment
will be credited toward future monthly bills.
Qualifying customers may sign up for budget billing any time
throughout the year. There are certain qualifiers for a customer to
become eligible for budget billing. The customer must have been at
the billing address for at least one year. Also, the customer must
have a zero balance owed on their account.
Automatic bank drafts allow for bill payment without a bill becoming
delinquent. The amount is automatically withdrawn from the
customer's bank account. Many individuals who spend a lot of time
away from home use this payment option.
"Share Some Warmth" Program
Developed after the winter of 2000 which included
a combination of record low temperatures and record high natural gas
prices, The "Share Some Warmth" program helps elderly citizens on
"fixed incomes" pay unusually high utility bills.
Local service agencies that assist the elderly developed the
criteria that eligibility depend upon:
The recipient must be a
customer of HU 60 years of age or older and/or handicapped.
The recipient must have
a delinquent utility bill subject to cutoff.
The recipient is unable
to qualify under other government assistance programs.
Bill payment assistance
runs from December 1st to April 30th.
There are several ways that individuals can
donate to the program. One-time cash donations are accepted. Checks
should be made out to the Salvation Army/Share Some Warmth (or note
Share Some Warmth in the "memo" area of the check). Also customers
can add an amount to their monthly bills from HU. Customers can add
the amount by visiting the business office at HU and signing an
authorization card. Or, an authorization card can be mailed to the
customer. Simply call 463-1371, extension 203 to request an
authorization card. The monthly "add-on" amount can be discontinued
whenever the customer so requests.
For information on applying for "Share Some
Warmth" funds, please contact the local Salvation Army at 463-0529.
Certainly this winter, electric heat is the more
economical option. Natural gas is at, or near, all-time record high
prices. If you have older inefficient heating equipment, now would
be an excellent time to either install a more efficient natural gas
furnace or to consider switching to electric heat.
Learn more about cash rebates
offered by Hastings Utilities for installing qualifying electric
heat pumps and furnaces.
Making your home more energy efficient is one of
the easiest and most cost-effective ways to maximize your energy
dollars. The key to achieving these savings in your home is a
whole-house energy efficiency plan. To take a whole-house approach,
view your home as an energy system with independent parts. For
example, your heating system is not just a furnace - itís a
heat-delivery system that starts at the furnace and delivers heat
throughout your home using a network of ducts. Even a
top-of-the-line, energy-efficient furnace will burn a lot of fuel if
the ducts, walls, attic, windows, and doors are not insulated and
leak. Taking a whole-house approach to saving energy ensures that
dollars you invest to save energy are spent wisely.
The U.S. Department of Energy has created a
comprehensive booklet detailing practical solutions for saving
energy throughout your home, from inexpensive ways to stop costly
air leaks to how to shop for windows that will drastically reduce
your energy bill.
View the Energy Savers booklet (pdf
4 MB) now. To request a copy of the Energy Savers booklet please
contact Hastings Utilities at 463-1371 ext. 203.