CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Piedmont Natural Gas is reminding customers of tips, tools, and assistance programs available to help customers prepare for higher winter bills. With seasonal cold weather on the horizon, coupled with an increase in the cost of natural gas customers are facing across the globe, Piedmont Natural Gas is reminding customers of tips, tools, and assistance programs available to help customers prepare for higher winter bills.
“Natural gas market prices are higher due to the economic recovery from last winter’s strong natural gas consumption, as well as slower-than-expected production this year,” said Richard Meyer, vice president of energy markets, analysis, and standards for the American Gas Association.
The natural gas market in the United States, on the other hand, is well supplied and ready to service clients throughout the winter. Utility bills are affected by the weather and the market, and consumer conservation can help lessen bill impacts, so now is a good time to make sure your household is ready before the cold weather arrives.
Piedmont, as a natural gas distributor, buys natural gas at the lowest possible price and then passes the savings on to customers. Rate hikes granted by public utility commissions in North Carolina and South Carolina will take effect Nov. 1 to cover safety and infrastructure upgrades to better serve consumers, in addition to the rising commodity cost of natural gas, from which the firm makes no profit.
In comparison to rates in place this summer, the expected cumulative monthly bill increase for the average residential customer in North Carolina will be approximately $11.34 per month or $136 per year as of Nov. 1. Customers in South Carolina should expect a comparable hike of about $11.00 per month, or $132 per year, compared to current rates.
“Our aim is twofold: to keep prices low while continuing to execute critical safety and infrastructure maintenance that allows Piedmont to provide safe and reliable natural gas service to consumers,” said Sasha Weintraub, senior vice president of Piedmont Natural Gas. “We know that we are still in difficult economic times, and rate increases, combined with the impending cold weather and rising natural gas prices, exacerbate the difficulties for certain consumers.”
“We are committed to helping our consumers and are taking steps to protect our most vulnerable customers by deferring disconnections until March 2022, for customers who qualify, and contacting out proactively to ensure they are aware that aid is available,” Weintraub continued.
This free program assists clients in budgeting by removing excessive winter bills. The EPP program helps customers avoid billing surprises by leveling out their natural gas bills and allowing them to pay a predictable, equal monthly amount. Piedmont calculates this payment by summing up a customer’s annual natural gas usage and dividing it by 12 to arrive at the same monthly payment amount. More information can be found here.
Piedmont is sending information about utility assistance administered by agencies in their state and local communities to clients whose bills are past late by email and/or SMS. Due to enhanced qualifying standards during the epidemic, customers who may not have previously qualified for assistance may now be eligible. Those who qualify and have already received aid may be eligible for higher levels of support.
The Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) helps low-income people pay for gas, electricity, and other forms of heating in their homes throughout the winter. Many customers are eligible, but do not apply for this annual federal incentive that can help low-income households save money on winter heating expenditures. The following resources can help you find out how to apply in your area:
- Liheap, Tennessee: https://thda.org/business-partners/liheap
- Low-Income Services in North Carolina: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/assistance/low-income-services
- http://oeo.sc.gov/liheap.html; SC: http://oeo.sc.gov/liheap.html
Customers consume more natural gas in the winter to stay warm as the weather becomes colder. Here are some suggestions for preparing for cold weather and managing your energy consumption. Here is a B-roll of energy-efficiency measures.
- Learn how to conserve energy. The first step in lowering your home’s energy use is to identify and prioritize energy-saving upgrades. You can do this with the help of a trained auditor or by doing your own energy audit.
- Air ducts should be sealed. Make sure your furnace and central air conditioner’s air ducts are properly sealed. Leaky ducts in the attic or crawl space can significantly raise your heating and cooling costs.
- Make sure your house is secure. Caulk, seal, and weather-strip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside is one of the quickest ways to save energy. This can help you save 10% to 20% on your heating and cooling expenditures.
- Smart thermostats should be installed. Installing a “smart” or programmed thermostat can help you save money on electricity while you’re sleeping or away.
- Control the temperature of the water. Set the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or consider installing an on-demand or tankless water heater that only heats water as needed.
- Consider insulating your home. Consider whether your ceiling, floors, and walls require additional insulation. Insulation between the inside and outside of your home minimizes energy consumption, saving you money while also improving your home’s comfort.
Piedmont Natural Gas also provides a number of energy-saving tools to assist consumers and communities in identifying ways to save money and energy throughout the year. These initiatives and materials are designed to help consumers understand how many factors affect their natural gas bills and to highlight particular steps they may take to mitigate the effects of high winter usage.
Piedmont Natural Gas, a Duke Energy subsidiary, is an energy services firm specializing in natural gas distribution to over 1 million residential, commercial, and industrial clients in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Natural gas is also supplied to power plants by the corporation. J.D. Power consistently recognizes Piedmont for exceptional customer satisfaction, and Cogent Reports has rated Piedmont as one of the most trusted utility brands in the United States.
Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) is a Fortune 150 corporation based in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is one of the major energy holding companies in the United States. Its electric utilities have a combined capacity of 51,000 megawatts and serve 7.9 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. In North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky, its natural gas unit serves 1.6 million consumers. The corporation has a workforce of 27,500 individuals.
Duke Energy is pursuing a bold clean energy strategy to help its customers and communities achieve a smarter energy future, with targets of at least a 50% decrease in carbon emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. The corporation is a leading provider of renewable energy in the United States, with plans to own or acquire 16,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2025. In addition, the business is investing in large electric grid upgrades and increased battery storage, as well as investigating zero-emission power generation technologies such as hydrogen and advanced nuclear.
Is Piedmont Natural Gas subject to regulation?
Customers of natural gas utility companies should be aware of their rights and responsibilities, as well as who to contact if they have questions or problems about regulated natural gas service, according to the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff (“ORS”) and the Public Service Commission of South Carolina (“PSC”). South Carolina Electric & Gas Company and Piedmont Natural Gas Company, Inc. are two of the state’s regulated natural gas utilities.
BE AN INFORMED CUSTOMER. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS.
1. If you meet the following requirements, you have the right to establish natural gas service where it is available: a) provide satisfactory identification and credit worthiness, b) provide necessary and reasonable access to your property, c) your use of the natural gas service does not pose a hazardous or dangerous condition, and d) natural gas service is already available in your area. You may or may not have the right to have natural gas lines connected to your home if there are none nearby. You may be forced to pay a portion of the cost of the extension if the lines are extended to serve you. You should contact the natural gas provider that serves your area if you have any queries concerning your right to natural gas service.
2. You have the right to have natural gas service provided you can prove your identification and credit, and neither you nor any member of your family owes the natural gas company any money. If any of the following criteria apply, you may be required to pay a deposit: a) you have had two (2) consecutive 30-day arrears in the last twenty-four (24) months or more than two (2) non-consecutive 30-day arrears in the last twenty-four (24) months; b) you are unable to provide an acceptable co-signer or guarantor who is a customer of the same natural gas utility with good credit, within the State of South Carolina, to guarantee payment of unpaid bills up to the amount of the maximum deposit; c) You have the right to have the utility’s workers explain all of the terms and conditions of getting service to you.
3. If a deposit is required, it cannot be more than an amount equal to an estimated two (2) months (60 days) billing for a new customer, or an amount equal to the total actual bills of the highest two (2) consecutive months based on the previous twelve (12) months’ experience, or for a portion of the year if the service is seasonal for an existing customer.
4. If you make a deposit with the utility, you have the right to have it returned after two (2) years unless you have had two (2) consecutive 30-day arrears in the previous twenty-four (24) months or more than two (2) non-consecutive 30-day arrears in the previous twenty-four (24) months, or your service has been terminated for nonpayment or fraudulent use, or you discontinue service with the natural gas utility. Interest is paid on deposits kept for more than six (6) months at a rate set by the PSC.
5. You have the right to avoid late payment costs if you pay your bill for current monthly charges within twenty-five (25) days of the billing date listed on your natural gas bill. To cover the expense of collection and carrying accounts in arrears, a maximum of one and one-half percent (11/2%) may be charged to any unpaid amount not paid within twenty-five (25) days of the billing date.
6. Before your natural gas service is discontinued for non-payment, you have the right to receive written notification from your natural gas utility. The letter will include contact information for the utility, the total amount outstanding, the date and amount of the most recent payment, and the due date or satisfactory payment arrangements for installment payments.
7. You have the option of designating a third person (for example, a friend, relative, or organization) to get a copy of your service disconnection notification. This party may be able to assist you in making payment arrangements in order to keep your service from being disconnected, but it is not bound to pay your account.
8. During the months of December through March, you have the option of deferring service disconnection by submitting an authorized medical certificate to the natural gas utility at least three (3) days prior to service disconnection or to the utility’s disconnection crew at the time of disconnection. A licensed physician must sign the medical certificate application issued by the natural gas utility, declaring that disconnection of service would be particularly detrimental to your health or the health of a member of your household. You must sign the certificate confirming that you are unable to pay the expenses owing for your natural gas service in installments. A certificate will expire on the 31st day after the physician has signed it. This certification may be renewed up to three (3) times for a total of thirty (30) days each time. (To avoid possible disconnection when the medical certificate expires, you must make a good faith attempt to make payments for natural gas service delivered during the period covered by the medical certificate.) You are still responsible for paying for natural gas service despite the medical certificate.)
9. If you can establish that you are unable to pay the amount owed, you have the right to negotiate with the natural gas provider for a deferred payment plan to pay in installments before your service is disconnected. You must pay the installment payment and the current month’s charges in full by the past due date under this deferred payment plan. This deferred payment plan requires monthly installment payments of at least 1/6 of the arrears balance for a maximum of six (6) months. If you are presently enrolled in a deferred payment plan, you are not eligible for another one. If you do not meet the terms and conditions of the delayed payment plan, the utility may discontinue your account.
10. If you have been overcharged by a natural gas utility due to a misapplied schedule, a meter reading error, a skipped meter reading, or any other human or machine error, you have the right to a credit or refund of the excess amount paid, up to the appropriate statute of limitations.
11. You have the right to pay the deficient amount resulting from the natural gas utility undercharging you in equal installments if the natural gas company undercharged you for any cause other than customer fraud or theft. A misapplied schedule, an error in reading the meter, a skipped meter reading, or any other human or machine error could result in undercharges that are not the consequence of consumer fraud or theft. The same amount of installments will be added to your bill over the same number of billing periods that you were undercharged.
12. If you suspect a fault, you have the right to have the natural gas company evaluate the accuracy of the meter supplying your home. If the test is requested more than twelve (12) months after the meter was installed or the previous time the meter was checked for accuracy, it will be performed free of charge. When the natural gas utility tests the meter, you have the right to be there or select a representative to be present. You have the right to be informed of the meter test findings. If an overcharge or undercharge occurs as a result of a fast or slow meter with a registration error of more than two percent (2%), the bills will be adjusted for a period of up to six (6) months.
13. You have the right to request assistance from the natural gas company in determining the most cost-effective rate schedule, as well as information on meter reading and billing procedures.
14. In the event of an emergency or unscheduled interruption in your natural gas service, you have the right to contact the natural gas provider at any time.
15. You have the right to a fast and complete investigation of your concerns by the natural gas provider.
16. You have the right to see the natural gas utility’s written procedures for service termination due to nonpayment for special needs account customers and for all residential customers during extreme hot or cold weather conditions upon request. On their websites, all gas utilities must publish their procedures for terminating service.
17. You have the right to contact the ORS’s Consumer Services Department if you have a complaint against a natural gas provider that you haven’t been able to resolve on your own. In order to resolve your concern, the Consumer Services Department will engage with you and the natural gas utility. The ORS is situated in Columbia and can be accessed at www.regulatorystaff.sc.gov or by dialing toll free 800.922.1531 or local 803.737.5230.
18. You have the right to make a formal complaint with the PSC and request a hearing if you are unable to address your problem by working with the natural gas utility or the ORS’s Consumer Services Department. You must fill out the PSC complaint form to make a complaint with the PSC. This form, which can be completed and filed online, is available at www.psc.sc.gov. You can also contact the PSC at 803.896.5100 for a copy of the complaint form, as well as instructions on how to fill it out. If you prefer to file a paper copy of your complaint with the PSC, you can do so by hand-delivering it to 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia, SC 29211; mailing it to Post Office Drawer 11649, Columbia, SC 29211; or faxing it to 803.896.5199.
The ORS and the PSC want to make you aware of your consumer rights and duties, as well as those of your natural gas company. As a customer of a regulated natural gas company, this statement summarizes your rights. The natural gas utility’s services are not all regulated. More specific provisions can be found in the law, commission rules and regulations, and the natural gas utility’s tariffs.
What is the depth of Piedmont Natural Gas Lines?
The customer service line should be buried at a depth of approximately 18 inches. (A minimum of 12″ is required). Any of the following shall not be placed in the same ditch as the customer service line: Conduit or electric lines
What is a natural gas therm?
To begin, you must comprehend how your gas consumption is measured. When you initially look at your natural gas account, the cost per therm (e.g., $0.52 per therm) is normally listed under your rate plan. You might be wondering what a therm is. The EIA, on the other hand, claims that “Therm is the measurement unit for your natural gas use over time. One therm equals 100,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units), which, in case you didn’t know, is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Most natural gas bills will indicate a price per therm, thus BTUs aren’t something you should be concerned about.
Your gas provider may also refer to CCF on your account, which is how they calculate how much energy you consume. 100 cubic feet of natural gas equals one therm (CCF).
The amount of natural gas you consume in your house and the rate you pay per therm determine your natural gas bill. Your gas cost will be greater if you burn more natural gas.
The amount of gas you use effectively is determined by a number of factors, including the efficiency of your appliances, how frequently you use them, and any external factors such as the weather. People who live in colder areas, for example, generally have greater monthly gas bills than those who live in warmer climes, since they must use more gas to heat their homes. This is because natural gas is typically utilized as a source of heat in our houses, whereas air conditioning is typically invoiced via electricity. In fact, SocalGas claims that “Because we use our house heater more frequently in cold weather, gas usage typically climbs three to seven times compared to milder summer weather.
Consider this for a moment: three to seven times more than in warmer weather. This is why it’s critical to be aware of your present rate. If you don’t have a set rate, the price per therm you pay may fluctuate during periods of high demand. Remember that not only will the price rise, but so will your total utilization. If your rate fluctuates with the market rather than remaining stable, the cost of staying warm could be significantly greater in the long run.
When you’re looking for ways to save money on your gas account, the first step is to assess your gas-burning appliances. The less gas you require to achieve the same output, the more efficient your appliances are. When it comes to efficiency, Energy Star appliances are the best in the business. Energy Star appliances can help you save money on your energy bills while also being superior appliances in general.
However, having Energy Star appliances is not always possible. In these circumstances, it’s critical to keep track of your appliances’ usage throughout the year. Your water heater and furnace will be two of the major contributors to your natural gas expenditure. According to Oasis Energy, these two items can cost you $66 per month on their own.
Fortunately, there are still ways to cut your monthly expenses. Your furnace will be the most expensive item, costing you an average of $43. There are two things you must do consistently to lower these costs:
- Replace the filters in your furnace on a regular basis.
- Control the temperature in your home.
Changing your filters should be second nature to you. When it comes to your thermostat, however, you’re probably more concerned with immediate comfort than with the cost implications. That’s all right; we’ve all done it. The good news is that we have the ability to alter our habits. So, instead of cranking up your heater to maximum capacity when winter arrives, try to find ways to utilize less heat. There are a few ways you might be able to give up a couple of degrees here and there, such as:
- When you’re not at home or in rooms you’re not using, turn the heat down.
- Make your bed with an additional blanket.
- Close your curtains and add a door sweep on your outside doors.
These are just a few ideas on how to remain warm without turning up the heat, and there are plenty more. Give one or two a shot; we’re sure you’ll be astonished at how much money you can save by making even minor adjustments.