BILLINGS — It's likely going to cost you much more to heat your home or business this winter.
The delivery rates for natural gas service from companies regulated by the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) are not changing.
However, the price of natural gas itself is driven by market conditions and the cost of natural gas is forecast to be higher due to increased global demand, coupled with limited natural gas production and inventory.
“Montana’s regulated natural gas utilities, including NorthWestern Energy, Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. and Energy West Montana Inc., are forecasting residential bills to be 47% to 62% higher compared with bills last winter,” said PSC executive director Erik Wilkerson.
"Utilities buy natural gas supplies when the price is lower and also store supplies for use in the winter to mitigate gas supply cost increases for customers, but this year natural gas prices are higher nationally and globally," Wilkerson continued.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration is more conservative on estimated rate increases. November's Winter Fuels Outlook report said it expects a 20.3% increase for homes in the West region, which includes Montana. That could rise to above 40% if the upcoming winter is 10% colder than normal, or fall to the low teens if the winter is 10% warmer than normal.
The PSC says Montanans should contact their natural gas utility to learn about options that average annual bills for monthly payments. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services’ Low-Income Energy Assistance pays part of winter energy bills for eligible people and most utilities offer LIEAP recipients discounts on their bills.
Montana Energy Share provides emergency bill assistance. To learn more, go to energysharemt.com.