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Watch Out for Extra Energy Costs This Winter

Xcel customers should expect to pay more for heat this winter.
Xcel customers should expect to pay more for heat this winter. American Public Power Association
Colorado’s Xcel customers could see their monthly natural gas bills rise by $27 over last winter's charges, even if they use the same amount of energy.

That's because natural gas prices are trending up, explains Matt Lindstrom, an Xcel media relations representative. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in September 2020 the price of natural gas for residential customers in Colorado was $10.34 per thousand cubic feet. In September 2021, the price was $15.48. While September is the most recent month for which data is available, the price had been increasing every month this year.

In November, Xcel started informing customers about a potential increase to their bills. Lindstrom notes that Colorado Xcel customers still pay under the national average for their natural gas. The U.S. Energy Information Administration lists the average cost in the United States in September as $20.22 per thousand cubic feet.

Natural gas production hasn’t rebounded from the pandemic, Lindstrom notes. That, coupled with a higher demand for natural gas, is what accounts for the price increase. Xcel doesn’t make any more profit if the price of natural gas is higher, he says, adding that the company tries to limit the impact that natural gas price fluctuations have on customers, but can’t completely insulate customers from those changes.

“With cold weather arriving in Colorado, we’re doing a number of things to prepare and minimize the impacts of increased natural gas prices on our company so we can help keep bills low for our customers,” Lindstrom says. Those efforts include filling storage accounts, contracting for gas in advance of use and putting extra inventory in fuel oil tanks to back up power generation. The company also purchased financial hedges to attempt to address some of the price increases.

Xcel offers customers several tips that can help keep energy bills lower even as prices change. Among them: Ensure that ceiling fans turn in a clockwise direction, because that helps push warm air down from the ceiling; opening drapes and blinds to maximize heat from sunlight; and operate appliances that use a lot of energy, such as space heaters, dishwashers and washing machines and dryers, during early morning and late evening hours.

If customers have trouble paying their bills, Lindstrom encourages them to contact the company. Xcel offers payment plans and energy assistance in some circumstances; find information on the Xcel website or call 1-800-895-4999.

Colorado also offers the Low-income Energy Assistance Program, known as LEAP, that helps with winter heating costs. Anyone who makes under 60 percent of the state's median income level could be eligible; that level is currently set at $2,759 per month or lower for a household of one to $7,322 per month or lower for a household of seven, though the website notes that those benchmarks change each year.
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Catie Cheshire is a staff writer at Westword. After getting her undergraduate degree at Regis University, she went to Arizona State University for a master's degree. She missed everything about Denver -- from the less-intense sun to the food, the scenery and even the bus system. Now she's reunited with Denver and writing news for Westword.
Contact: Catie Cheshire

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