All signs point to higher natural gas prices this winter

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GH Scott

You probably noticed on your last monthly bill that Las Cruces Utilities is proactive in letting its customers know that natural gas prices are rising around the world, and so is your winter monthly bill. It’s now official, as the US Energy Information Administration announced that US household heating bills will increase by up to 54% compared to last winter. In certain parts of the country, including the southwest, the jump can be even bigger.

According to the EIA, high prices follow changes in energy supply and demand in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they predict a slightly colder winter in much of the United States than last year. The forecast is part of the EIA’s Winter Fuel Outlook, which predicts US households will spend more on energy this winter than they will several years from now. The outlook also assumes that electricity prices will rise in part because natural gas is used to generate electricity.

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As you know, LCU does not produce natural gas, it buys it from producers. The municipal supplier passes the purchased fuel on to the customer at no extra charge. While LCU does everything it can to buy gas at the lowest price, the price is determined by market conditions. If the prices for gas raw materials rise, the costs are passed on to the LCU customers. Conversely, the supplier passes the lower prices on to customers if the prices that LCU pays for gas fall. To be clear, there is no profit or margin for LCU on the gas purchased and sold to customers. Customers pay what LCU pays, no more and no less.

However, there are several things LCU customers can do to minimize their household energy bills this winter. First, turn down your thermostat, weatherproof your home by sealing air leaks and adding insulation, cleaning or replacing filters on your stoves more than once a month. Since Las Cruces is blessed with plenty of winter sun, open curtains and blinds on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to enter. Close them at night to reduce the chill from cold windows.

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Despite efforts to minimize the impact, these projected cost increases could have a significant impact on many LCU customers. For this reason, the LCU is coordinating with the Human Services Department of the State of New Mexico, which administers the low-income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps qualified private customers of gas suppliers with their heating bills. To find out if you qualify for LIHEAP, visit the New Mexico Human Services Department at www.hsd.state.nm.us/ Lookingforassistance / low_income_home_energy_assistance_program / or call LCU Customer Central at 575-541-2111.

LCU also encourages customers to register for LCU UtilityHawk, a free service that allows you to keep track of your gas and water usage. Visit LCUtilityHawk.com today on your mobile phone, laptop, desktop or tablet.

The LCU Customer Central can be reached Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at 575-541-2111. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Find out more at www.las-cruces.org/180/Utilities In an emergency, call Dispatch at 575-526-0500.

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