Natural Gas Prices Up, Customers’ Bills Will Stay High For A Bit

'It's Going To Be An Expensive Year To Heat Your Home'

Price of natural gas in Wisconsin, 1990-2013
Monthly price of natural gas in Wisconsin, 1990-2013 Photo: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Wisconsin utilities say the price of natural gas has jumped this winter and customers can expect to keep paying more for a while.

Natural gas is still considered to be the most economical way to heat a home, but thanks to a colder than usual winter, demand has skyrocketed.

Xcel Energy Director of Gas Supply Tim Carter says in a normal year they rely on massive gas reserves purchased at lower prices during the summer. But this year Xcel and other utilities have depleted their reserves and have had to buy gas on the open market, which costs the company and consumers more.

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“We were estimating that prices would be up probably 10-15 percent,” Carter said. “I’ve got to think they’re going to be quite a bit higher than that, because not only have we seen the wholesale prices go up, but we’ve also seen the consumption go up.”

Xcel Energy says their average household paid $144 for heat in January. That’s about 34 percent higher than the same time last year.

Kerry Spees is a spokesman for Wisconsin Public Service in Green Bay. He says they, too, have had to make purchases on the open market, which means customers will pay more over the entire season.

“We expect that this year they will probably pay about $155 more than they did last year for the winter season,” Spees said, “and that’s from November 1st to March 31st.”

Spees says prices should stabilize in coming months. “Hopefully we’ll get a turn in the weather here and we can start to get back to normal, but it’s going to be an expensive year to heat your home.”

Both WPS and Xcel Energy say the high costs this winter won’t have any affect on utility rate case requests made with the state’s Public Service Commission.