INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Three of Indiana's largest natural gas utilities on Tuesday projected small increases in heating bills for their customers this winter.
Northern Indiana Public Service Co. forecast its customers will see only about a 1 percent increase in natural gas prices. Citizens Energy Group in Indianapolis projected typical gas bills for its residential customers will increase less than 2 percent, and Vectren estimated its customers in southern and central Indiana will pay about 3 percent more.
"The outlook on natural gas prices and domestic supplies remain stable for the foreseeable future, which is great news as we head toward the winter heating season," NIPSCO CEO Jim Stanley said.
The U.S. Energy Department forecast that natural gas costs for users nationwide will rise about 13 percent for November through March from the same period last year, to an average of $679. That is still 4 percent below the average for the previous five winters, the department said in its annual outlook for heating costs Tuesday.
Vectren North division President Mike Roeder said natural gas customers have seen winter bills decline over the past four years with falling gas prices. He said gas prices have since moved up modestly.
NIPSCO says its average using customer about 624 therms total during the winter heating season would pay about $437 this year for the five winter heating months as opposed to $433 last winter, according to the NIPSCO forecast.
Vectren estimates an average household cost increase of $3 per month or $530 for the entire five-month heating season, down from $750 or more during the winter of 2008-2009.
Citizens Energy said its typical customer will pay $569 for the five months, up from $560 last year.
The estimates are based on normal winter weather. Colder-than-normal temperatures and customer usage could drive individual bills higher.