Natural Gas Bills to Rise

Xcel Energy Inc. is proposing to charge its customers in Colorado less for electricity but more for natural gas in the first quarter. If approved, the new rates will take effect January 1.

Natural gas users will see the biggest percentage increase after two years of historically low prices.

Xcel said the average electric monthly bill for residential customers would decline to $69.42 in the first quarter from $69.93 in the current quarter. Homes relying on electricity for heat, about 38 percent of the U.S., will likely pay about 2 percent more compared to last year.

The increase in natural gas bills will be more dramatic, however, with a 14-17 percent increase. Natural gas bills are compared on a year-over-year basis to reflect seasonal use. Because natural gas prices were higher than expected at the start of the winter heating season, Xcel is passing along the increased costs to its customers. Here are some tips about how to lower energy costs during the winter.

Residential customers can expect to see an average of $85.58 a month for natural gas in the first quarter, up from $71.80 at the start of the year.

Therefore, most households will pay more for heat this winter with their heating bills rising to an average of $679, the Energy Department said in its annual outlook for heating. That is about 13 percent higher than a year ago, but is still 4 percent below the average from the previous five winters.

Just over half of U.S. households use natural gas for heating, and Xcel’s use of natural gas is projected to grow to 29 percent of generation in 2018 from 24 percent in 2011 as a result of the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. The law, which passed in 2010, offers incentives to close aging coal plants and switch to natural gas to help curb Front Range air pollution.

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