Natural gas costs rising this season

Posted 10/29/08

Rhonda Moore Natural gas customers from Elbert and Douglas counties can expect to pay at least 25 percent more for gas this year than they did last …

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Natural gas costs rising this season


Rhonda Moore

Natural gas customers from Elbert and Douglas counties can expect to pay at least 25 percent more for gas this year than they did last year.

The increase is the combined result of historically high gas costs this spring and summer and a completed pipeline that changed the market for Colorado consumers, said Curt Floerchinger, Black Hills Energy communications manager for Kansas and Colorado natural gas.

Black Hills Energy, formerly Aquila, stockpiles gas in the spring and summer, seasons when costs are typically lower, Floerchinger said. Because of the market fluctuations this year, however, much of the gas purchased by Black Hills was bought at a higher level, he said.

Consumers can therefore expect to see the increase in their gas bills throughout the winter. The cost of natural gas is passed directly to the consumer without a company markup, Floerchinger said.

The cost of natural gas accounts for about 75 percent of the average gas bill, according to the Black Hills Corp. The gas company makes its profit by charging for the infrastructure — or pipelines — to move the gas and for the operational costs it incurs to monitor and deliver the product.

An infrastructure improvement is another factor contributing to the increase in the cost of natural gas this year, with the completion of the Rocky Mountain Express Pipeline, Floerchinger said.

The pipeline opened up the market from Colorado to eastern states, exposing Colorado consumers to a higher-paying market competing for the same service.

The result is that Colorado consumers will buy natural gas at a level more in line with national prices, Floerchinger said. The pipeline was completed earlier this year and had an almost immediate effect on natural gas prices for local consumers.

“When the gas was confined to [Colorado] it was a smaller market and they had no option to sell to other places,” Floerchinger said. “The only place they could sell was to Colorado. Now, with this pipeline, the options for selling go elsewhere and causes the price to become more even with the rest of the country. We’re expecting it to be 20-30 percent higher this winter than last winter.”

The Black Hills Corp. recommends consumers take control of their energy costs via a number of energy-saving tips in the household. In addition to winterizing the house with caulk, insulation, weather stripping and proper maintenance of the furnace and hot water heater, consumers are urged to consider the following energy conservation measures.

Adjust the thermostat during the day and night. Set the thermostat at 68 degrees during the day, and lower it a few degrees at night.

Lower the water heater temperature a few degrees.

Use cold water whenever possible when washing clothes. Many laundry detergents are designed to remain effective in cold water.

Check furnace filters monthly and clean or replace filters as needed.

Don’t block heating vents with furniture or clutter.

Caulk and seal around windows and doors.

Add insulation in the home’s attic.

Install a setback thermostat that will automatically lower temperature settings at night and at other designated times. They pay for themselves over time.

Customers of Black Hills Energy can manage increased costs through budget billing, a no-fee option that spreads natural gas costs out over the year, helping customers avoid large monthly fluctuations caused by peak usage. Customers can call 888- 890-5554 or visit for more information about budget billing. The number also provides other options for paying the bill.

The earlier in the billing cycle the customer contacts the company, the more options will be available for payment arrangements, according to a Black Hills Corp. press release urging customers to prepare for winter.

Black Hills Energy is a division of Black Hills Corp. and serves 68,000 natural gas customers in 28 Colorado communities, including Douglas and Elbert counties. For more information visit the Web site at

New pipeline contributes

Stockpiled at higher prices

Energy-saving steps urged


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