Temperatures are going down in NC, but it’s not why your heating bill is going up

·2 min read

Your monthly natural gas bill is about to spike again, and the latest increase has nothing to do with cooler temperatures expected to settle in for the season beginning this weekend.

Beginning Nov. 1, North Carolina residential customers will see their monthly bills climb by about $11.34, or $136 a year, compared with rates that were in effect this summer, Charlotte-based Duke Energy and its Piedmont Natural Gas subsidiary posted in an online announcement Oct. 5.

South Carolina customers can expect a similar increase of about $11 a month or $132 annually, company officials said.

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In their post on the Duke Energy website, the companies in part cited “global surges in the commodity cost of natural gas” and previously approved higher rates to pay for safety improvements to their natural gas system.

“Natural gas market prices are higher due to the economic recovery from strong natural gas demand from last winter, along with slower than anticipated production this year,” Richard Meyer of the American Gas Associations is quoted as saying in the post.

U.S. natural gas prices have more than doubled since last October, The Associated Press reported on Oct. 1.

“In Europe and Asia, wholesale prices are more than five times what they were a year ago,” according to the AP.

‘Challenging times’

Piedmont Natural Gas buys the gas “at the best possible price, and then passes this cost directly to customers,” according to the post.

Piedmont makes no profit from its rate increases approved by N.C. and S.C. public utility commissions, company officials said.

The company has two goals, Sasha Weintraub, Piedmont Natural Gas senior vice president said in the announcement: “Keep rates low while still performing the vital safety and infrastructure work that allows Piedmont to deliver safe and reliable natural gas service to customers.”

“We recognize we still are in challenging economic times, and rate increases, combined with approaching cold weather and higher natural gas prices, create additional hardships for some customers,” Weintraub said.

The company, she said, is suspending disconnections until March 2022 for customers who qualify. Officials also are notifying the vulnerable of available assistance, she added.

Similar price shock

In February, Piedmont customers were socked with similarly higher winter bills. One customer complained that his monthly bill had doubled, The Charlotte Observer reported at the time.­­­­­­­­

The company blamed cooler winter months than the previous year, customers working from home due to the pandemic, a rise in the wholesale cost of natural gas and expiring tax credits.

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