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Utility bills expected to rise as natural gas prices soar

Gas Pipelines-Investigation
Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 18:23:31-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Utility bills will soon increase due to skyrocketing prices of natural gas.

Extremely cold temperatures and an ill-equipped power grid were a deadly combination for the people of Texas.

The impact was felt throughout the Midwest as utility companies forced rolling shutoffs.

Democratic Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota said natural gas prices have spiked to nearly 100 times typical levels in some cases. She's asking regulators to investigate price gouging.

Now, many people are wondering what this will mean for their utility bills.

James Owen, executive director of Renew Missouri, said natural gas is used to fuel gas stoves and hot water heaters. Owen said people won't see an increase in their bills immediately but should expect to see an increase in about six months.

"The losses that the utilities have incurred, extra costs, they're going to ask regulators to pass that onto the consumer," Owen said. "I would not be surprised if we're still talking about this cold snap a couple of years from now."

There are things people can do to offset the costs of their utility bills.

"I think one of the things being lost in all of this is we absolutely have the ability to reduce how much power we're using, " Owen said. "Are your appliances up to date? Are your windows weatherized? Those things have a tremendous impact on what you're able to do to reduce the stress on the grid as an individual customer and also your pocketbook."

Making a home more energy efficient can be costly. However, for people who live in Missouri, Evergy offers a number of rebates on its website.

Gina Penzig, spokesperson for Evergy, said the company is giving away smart thermostats for free to customers, which can shave off about 10 to 15 percent off a person's bill.

Evergy also offers a rebate, up to $700, on HVAC systems.

"About half of your electricity bill is towards heating and cooling your home," Penzig said. "By upgrading older equipment to new energy efficient can be great."

Evergy also offers income-based programs to help people and families weatherize their home. That information can be found on the Ways to Save tab on the company's website.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Gina Penzig's last name.