"It's hard to predict what this winter's weather will be. That's why regardless of price, we encourage customers to increase the efficiency of their homes and businesses to reduce energy waste." - Jeff Sylvester, Black Hills Energy
Black Hills Energy's natural gas prices this winter are expected to be at or slightly below last year's prices overall. But last winter was warmer than normal across Black Hill's natural gas service territory. If weather is colder this winter than last, total heating bills would be higher than last winter's even with similar gas prices because of higher gas usage.
Besides price, usage is the other factor that determines overall utility bills, and weather is a key driver in how much natural gas customers use to heat their homes and businesses.
"Natural gas prices were low this spring and summer so we took advantage of that by buying gas at a lower price and storing it for use this winter," said Black Hills Energy Senior Gas Supply Manager Harry Ono. The company buys up to 70 percent of its winter natural gas supplies in spring and summer through fixed-price and option contracts and stores some of that gas. Remaining supplies are purchased at market rates on a monthly basis throughout the November to March heating season.
"It's hard to predict what this winter's weather will be. That's why regardless of price, we encourage customers to increase the efficiency of their homes and businesses to reduce energy waste," said Jeff Sylvester Black Hills Energy vice president of Nebraska operations.
Black Hills also offers programs and services that help customers manage natural gas bills including Budget Billing, which levels out monthly payments, spreading winter bills over the entire year.
Customers who struggle to pay their bill are encouraged to contact the company immediately to arrange a payment plan or to be referred to their local energy assistance agency. "We want to do all we can to help customers in need of assistance," said Sylvester.