CenterPoint Responds to Recent Increase in Gas Bills

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) – With all the frustration in the region, CenterPoint took the opportunity to explain why the bills are so high.

Utility providers like CenterPoint buy natural gas on the wholesale market and then pass the cost on to customers.

“Whatever the cost of gas to us is exactly what it is to the customer and there is no markup on the product,” said CenterPoint Energy representative Natalie Hedde.

Which begs the question: what drove up natural gas prices?

“You know, it’s just a function of the market, supply and demand, and so as you’ve seen demand increase, then maybe some things in the market that have tightened supply have caused a price spike,” said Richard, a representative of CenterPoint Energy. Light.

Supply and demand driving up prices is part of the problem, the other part being the cost of infrastructure. Storms in Texas last year forced CenterPoint to pay to repair or upgrade its infrastructure elsewhere.

They got permission from the state to pass those costs on to consumers starting in August and they say those fees will end in July.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission ranks the most expensive natural gas providers in the state and CenterPoint Energy Indiana South was one of the most expensive and was the more expensive for low power customers.

They say it comes down to the base fee, which covers the cost of getting gasoline to customers, something that hadn’t been updated for a long time.

“It goes back to the fact that we’ve been the lowest natural gas prices in the state for a considerable amount of time, because it was since 2007 that we hadn’t discounted those base prices,” Hedde said. “So for a lot longer we were the lowest in the state for the very short period of time we were the highest.”

One place to see the effect of higher bills is on Facebook. The “Direct Action Against CenterPoint Energy” group is a place where people can share their experiences and frustrations with the company.

CenterPoint says they’ve been willing to communicate with the group’s administrators, but haven’t shown the same courtesy.

“We’ve contacted the person who created this Facebook page several times and I’m just not sure if they intend to engage with us intentionally,” Hedde said.

Heather Lobeck, one of the group’s administrators, disagrees. She says their interactions with the company result in referrals to assistance programs, but the group members are looking for something different.

“What we are asking for is a significant change, a significant change in our bills, decreases. We don’t need phone numbers to help programs,” Lobeck said.

We asked Hedde if the bills would still be so high next winter. She said it was impossible to know until at least this fall.

Another element that amplified the problem between CenterPoint and its customers was the recent release of CenterPoint’s earnings report, which showed a successful quarter and year for the company. They say they recognize it may have seemed tone-deaf to celebrate the earnings report, but they are obligated to release it.

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