Black Hills estimates lower natural gas prices

It should cost less to heat your home this winter, as natural gas prices currently are at a seven year low.
        Black Hills Energy anticipates lower natural gas prices this winter due to the sluggish economy and resulting lack of demand, and an abundance of natural gas thanks to record storage levels. Since the beginning of 2009, market prices for natural gas have continued on a downward trend and recently fell to a seven year low – down nearly 78 percent from the July 2008 peak. While a customer’s overall bill won’t be down by that percentage, the decrease due to lower gas costs will be appreciable.
        “We’re glad to pass those lower prices on to our customers,” said Dan Mechtenberg, vice president of operations for Nebraska. “We use a portfolio purchasing strategy to get the best price possible and then pass that price to customers without markup. The gas cost portion of a residential bill typically accounts for three-fourths of the bill, so the savings could be significant if prices remain low.”
        Black Hills Energy’s natural gas portfolio includes fixed-price contracts, options, and current index or market priced natural gas.
         “Numerous factors influence the market price for natural gas,” Mechtenberg said. “For that reason, we don’t want to purchase all our supplies in the same manner and at one time. Instead, we diversify our portfolio to manage price volatility and to ensure our flexibility to adapt to customer needs.” Also contributing to the low prices are vast new discoveries of natural gas in the United States.
        Customers and the environment benefit from clean-burning natural gas, and Black Hills Energy offers many programs and services to help customers manage their natural gas bills and control energy usage. “Regardless of the price, we encourage customers to take measures to increase the efficiency of their homes and businesses to reduce energy consumption, translating to savings on their monthly bill,” Mechtenberg said.
        The company offers a budget billing program to level out monthly payments and spread winter bills over the entire year. Customers who think they may struggle to pay their natural gas bill are encouraged to contact the company immediately to arrange a payment plan or be referred to their local energy assistance agency. “We encourage customers to call us before the bill is due, because your options usually are greater then,” Mechtenberg explained. “We want to do all we can to help customers in need of assistance.”