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Colder weather, COVID quarantines and rising commodity prices contribute to higher natural gas bills

2021-02-10 12:48 ET - News Release

- Natural gas usage has increased with families spending more time at home.
- Piedmont offers energy efficiency tools and equal payment plans to mitigate high bills.

CHARLOTTE, N.C, Feb. 10, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Piedmont Natural Gas says a colder winter and families sheltering at home during COVID are resulting in increased customer usage. Combined with a rise in the commodity cost of natural gas over the past few months, customers are experiencing higher bills. The company is urging customers to visit Piedmont's website for energy-saving tips, to sign up for an equal payment plan (EPP), or to find customer assistance programs. 

"Typically, families would turn down their thermostats in winter as adults go off to work and children leave for school," said Mia Haynes, vice president of customer care. "With many families staying at home all day, it's a much different situation than last winter. Also, November 2020 was unusually warm, while December brought an abrupt return to more average, seasonal temperatures."

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), temperatures in the southeast region of the U.S. were much warmer than average in November 2020, but winter weather was closer to normal in December 2020 and into January 2021. In North Carolina alone, where most of Piedmont's customers are located, the average temperature decreased abruptly by about 13 degrees Fahrenheit from November to December.

Another factor contributing to higher bills is the commodity cost of natural gas, which fluctuates daily. While the commodity cost of natural gas remained lower for most of 2020, it increased by December 2020, just as the cold snap hit. Piedmont notes that this trend may continue as natural gas futures currently are trending higher. Piedmont passes through to customers the commodity cost of natural gas without any markup from the company.

Haynes continued, "The combination of rising prices, a cold winter and many families staying at home all day can quickly add up, making bills significantly higher than expected. We'd like to help with a few tips to keep bills manageable while keeping customers warm and comfortable."

Energy-saving tips

  • Seal your air ducts
    • Make sure the air ducts from your home's furnace and central air conditioner are properly sealed. Ducts that leak into the attic or crawl space can substantially increase your heating and cooling bills.
  • Seal your home
    • One of the quickest energy-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal and weather-strip all seams, cracks and openings to the outside. This can save 10% to 20% on your heating and cooling bills.
  • Smart thermostats
    • Installing a "smart" or programmable thermostat will reduce your energy use while you are asleep or away.
  • Water heating
    • Set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or consider installing an on-demand or tankless water heater that only heats water when you need it.
  • Consider insulation
    • Consider whether you need to add insulation to your ceiling, floors and walls. Insulation between the indoors and outdoors reduces energy demand, saving you money while improving the comfort of your home.
  • Reduce energy use
    • The first step to reduce energy use in your home is to identify and prioritize energy-saving improvements. This can be accomplished through a certified auditor or by performing your own energy audit.

Piedmont also is offering programs and tools to help customers understand what factors are impacting their natural gas bills and emphasize specific actions they can take to reduce the impacts of high winter usage.

Energy-saving tools

Piedmont Natural Gas offers these energy-saving tools to help our customers and our communities identify ways to save money and energy.

Equal payment program

This free service helps customers manage their budget by allowing them to pay an estimated, equal monthly amount. Piedmont determines this payment by adding up a customer's annual natural gas usage and then dividing it into the same payment amount each month. Learn more here.

Assistance programs

In North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, Piedmont Natural Gas is offering plans and flexible options to help customers who are behind on their utility payments.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Piedmont Natural Gas

Piedmont Natural Gas, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, is an energy services company whose principal business is the distribution of natural gas to more than 1 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The company also supplies natural gas to power plants. Piedmont is routinely recognized by J.D. Power for excellent customer satisfaction, and has been named by Cogent Reports as one of the most trusted utility brands in the U.S. 

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of the largest energy holding companies in the U.S. It employs 30,000 people and has an electric generating capacity of 51,000 megawatts through its regulated utilities, and 3,000 megawatts through its nonregulated Duke Energy Renewables unit.

Duke Energy is transforming its customers' experience, modernizing the energy grid, generating cleaner energy and expanding natural gas infrastructure to create a smarter energy future for the people and communities it serves.

Duke Energy was named to Fortune's 2020 "World's Most Admired Companies" list, and Forbes' 2019 "America's Best Employers" list. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com. The Duke Energy News Center contains news releases, fact sheets, photos, videos and other materials. Duke Energy's illumination features stories about people, innovations, community topics and environmental issues. Follow Duke Energy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.      

Media contact: Jennifer Sharpe
Media line: 800.559.3853
Cell: 704.616.2013
Email: jennifer.sharpe@duke-energy.com

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