Over President’s Day weekend, severe winter weather ravaged the central United States and drove natural gas prices to unprecedented highs which continued into the following week. To ensure our community continued to have uninterrupted service for heat and other uses, OPU–like many public natural gas systems- -was forced to pay these inflated prices on the spot market. Those prices, must ultimately be passed on to you, our customers.
We put together this informational insert to provide you with information about the event and to explain how it impacts you. Fortunately, the news I must convey is not as bad as we had originally anticipated when we were first going through the crisis. In part, this is due to the fact that when we put out the call asking customers to reduce their consumption, you did. By turning down thermostats and other conservation methods, our consumption was reduced by 3½%; this saved more than $120,000 per day.
The other factor was our commission’s decision to spread the additional cost out over 12 months rather than recovering the cost in a single month as is standard policy. Our commission was concerned with how such a big increase would affect many of our financially vulnerable customers.
Therefore, they made the decision to dip into our cash reserves in order to spread the cost out and make it easier on our customers.
Still, we think it important to let you know about this increase so that you can prepare for it. The average residential customer’s annual natural gas bill is just under $600. The effect of the February spike is $350 for the average residential customer; spread over 12 months this is just under $30 per month. To calculate the impact on you personally, find your February bill. Take the quantity of CCF billed, and multiply it by $0.2188; this amount will be added to your bill beginning in April. (Example: 150 CCF X $0.2188 = $32.82).
If you are having difficulty paying your bill, please reach out to our customer service department at 507-451-2480. They are ready to assist you in setting up a payment arrangement and pointing you in the right direction to receive any financial heating assistance you might be entitled to.
While I am not at all happy with the crazy prices we had to endure (not to mention the cold weather), I am thankful our infrastructure is robust enough to keep us all warm on the very coldest of days, we are financially strong enough to weather the storm, and our commission cares enough about our customers to reduce the burden by spreading the cost recovery out over time.