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Residential heating costs are $100 lower on average than last winter
Customers should inquire about valuable energy programs to save even more

MINNEAPOLIS - Feb. 16, 2010 - Lower wholesale natural gas prices are giving the average Minnesota CenterPoint Energy residential consumer a break on their heating bills this winter. On average, residential customers have paid approximately $100 less to heat their homes over the past three months when compared to the same period last year due to lower gas prices and warmer weather. The cost of gas on a customer’s bill, which changes monthly depending on market prices, is passed on directly to customers with no mark-up and makes up about 70 to 80 percent of a natural gas bill. The actual total bill amount varies depending on the amount of natural gas used.

“Natural gas prices have been lower than a year ago and are expected to remain relatively flat for Minnesota customers,” said Joe Klenken, regulatory specialist. “Therefore, over the remainder of the winter, our customers can expect that any variation to their total natural gas bills will be largely dependent on the weather.”

“Colder weather typically produces higher natural gas bills due to increased gas use for heating needs,” added David Baker, vice president of operations for CenterPoint Energy in Minnesota. “We are happy that overall, our customers are receiving lower heating bills compared to last winter - demonstrating that natural gas continues to be a great energy value when compared to other heating fuels. Even though bills are lower on average, we are committed to providing ways our customers can save even more money to help manage their budget, educate those who are having or anticipate having trouble paying their heating bills about payment options and help them apply for energy assistance through local agencies.”

Customers can apply for Low Income Heating Assistance Programs (LIHEAP) through Community Action agencies in their communities. They can also call CenterPoint Energy representatives to discuss payment plan options, such as the Gas Affordability Program (GAP) that is designed to help qualifying customers lower their monthly gas bills and pay past due balances. Customers can take advantage of our assistance programs, consider enrolling in CenterPoint Energy’s levelized billing program and learn about our energy saving conservation programs by:

Requesting the Gas Affordability Program (GAP):

  • GAP is a program designed to make low income customers monthly bill affordable.  In order to qualify for the program customers must qualify for and receive a Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) guarantee for the current heating season.  Qualified customers may also be eligible to receive credits on their monthly natural gas bill.  Call CenterPoint Energy if you would like more information about the program 612-372-4727 or 1-800-245.2377 or visit the company’s Web site at www.CenterPointEnergy.com/paybill.

Joining CenterPoint Energy’s Budget Billing Plan:

  • Customers should also consider enrolling in CenterPoint Energy’s Budget Plan. By spreading your payments evenly throughout the year, you have a predictable, levelized payment each month and avoid high winter bill peaks. For details visit www.centerpointenergy.com/budgetplan.

Taking advantage of CenterPoint Energy’s Conservation Improvement Program:

  • The best way for customers to lower their energy bills is to use less energy. The CenterPoint Energy Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) provides low cost energy audits and applicable rebates for installation or upgrades of high efficiency equipment, such as: high efficiency furnaces, boilers, water heaters and steam traps. Learn more at www.centerpointenergy.com/rebates. Also, take the interactive Energy-Saving Tour on our Web site at www.centerpointenergy.com to access tips for saving energy in every room in your home.

Obtaining state information on how to stay safe and warm:

  • The Stay Warm Minnesota campaign was launched to help every Minnesota family experience a safe and comfortable winter. Visit www.staywarm.mn.gov for useful information regarding energy efficiency and heating assistance programs provided by the federal and state government, private industry, non profits and energy utilities.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution, competitive natural gas sales and services, interstate pipelines and field services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. Assets total nearly $19 billion. With about 8,800 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 135 years. In Minnesota, CenterPoint Energy is the state’s largest natural gas distribution utility, serving nearly 790,000 customers in 260 communities. The utility also operates a non-regulated business in Minnesota called Home Service Plus®. For more information, visit the Web site at www.CenterPointEnergy.com.