All indications point to an increase in natural gas prices this winter

GH Scott

You probably noticed in your last monthly bill that Las Cruces Utilities is proactive in informing its customers that natural gas prices are increasing around the world, and therefore your monthly winter bill will too. It is now official since the Energy Information Administration of the United States has announced that it expects American households to see their heating bills increase by 54% compared to last winter. In some parts of the country, especially the southwest, the jump can be even bigger.

The EIA says high prices follow changes in energy supply and demand patterns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they predict a slightly colder winter than last year for a large part the United States. The forecast is part of the EIA’s Winter Fuel Outlook, which projects U.S. households will spend more on energy this winter than they have in several years. The outlook also projects that utility prices for electricity will increase in part because natural gas is used in power generation.

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As you know, LCU does not produce natural gas, but buys it from producers. The city-owned utility passes the purchased fuel on to customers without mark-up. While LCU does everything to buy gas at the lowest price, the price is determined by market conditions. Thus, when gas prices increase, the costs are passed on to LCU customers. Likewise, when the prices paid by LCU for gas decrease, the utility passes the lower prices on to customers. To be clear, there is no profit or margin for LCU on gas bought 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 residential energy costs this winter. To begin with, lower your thermostat, sanitize your home by plugging air leaks and adding insulation, clean or replace your furnace filters 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 cold from cold windows.

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Despite all efforts to minimize impacts, these expected cost increases could have a significant impact on many LCU customers. This is why LCU coordinates with the New Mexico State Department of Human Services, which administers the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program that provides assistance to qualifying residential utility customers. gas with their heating costs. To find out if you qualify for LIHEAP, visit the New Mexico Department of Human Services 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 its customers to sign up for LCU UtilityHawk, a free service that allows you to track your gas and water usage. Visit LCUtilityHawk.com today on your mobile phone, laptop, desktop or tablet.

LCU Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. LCU provides clean, safe and reliable services to residents and businesses of Las Cruces. Learn more at www.las-cruces.org/180/Utilities For emergencies, call Dispatch at 575-526-0500.

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