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CenterPoint Energy to pass on lower natural gas prices to City of Houston customers next month
Recent drop in natural gas prices brings some relief but last summer’s record-high prices will still impact customer bills

HOUSTON – January 14, 2009 – CenterPoint Energy will decrease the gas cost adjustment (GCA) portion of a City of Houston customer’s natural gas bill beginning in February. A similar adjustment will also take effect next month in other incorporated areas around Houston.

The adjustment will lower the average City of Houston residential winter gas bill using 100 Ccf (hundred cubic feet) of natural gas by about 10 percent. This means a bill that was $134.64 in January will be $121.53 next month. Actual bills will vary depending on how much natural gas individual customers use.

Through the GCA, an allowed adjustment to the gas supply charge portion of a customer bill, CenterPoint Energy passes on the cost of natural gas with no markup. The GCA reflects the actual prices the company pays for natural gas.

CenterPoint Energy works with a variety of natural gas suppliers and buys natural gas throughout the year on a competitively bid basis, a common utility practice to ensure reliable supplies and to take advantage of typically lower spring and summer natural gas prices.

“Much of the natural gas we purchased for this heating season was bought last summer – when prices were at record highs - and placed into storage,” said Rick Zapalac, vice president of Gas Operations for Texas. “During the second half of 2008, as the economy slowed and the financial crisis gripped the country, wholesale natural gas prices dropped dramatically. As a result, next month’s natural gas bill will reflect a blend of the current lower wholesale natural gas prices and last summer’s record-high prices.”

CenterPoint Energy communicates with customers prior to each heating season about current natural gas prices and provides energy efficiency and conservation information through customer bill inserts and on its CenterPointEnergy.com/readyforwinter Website. There are many no-cost, low-cost things customers can do to lower their consumption and their natural gas bill during the winter:

  • Enroll in Average Monthly Billing to spread heating costs more evenly throughout the year and avoid high winter bill peaks.

Furnace: A furnace is the largest natural gas consumer, and makes up about 47 percent of your natural gas bill.

  • Lower your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re home and 65 degrees when you’re not. By lowering your thermostat 10 – 15 percent for eight hours a day, you can save up to 10 percent a year on your heating costs. Installing a programmable thermostat can help you automatically control your usage.
  • Change your air filters monthly. A dirty filter restricts airflow and can increase the operating cost of your furnace by as much as 10 percent. A good reminder is to change the filter each time you receive your natural gas bill.

Water heater: The water heater is the second-largest gas consuming appliance making up about 43 percent of your bill.

  • Set the water heater temperature at 120 degrees and wrap water heater pipes. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees from 140 degrees and insulating your pipes can save you up to 10 percent on your water heating costs.

Other appliances: Although they consume less natural gas, you can still maximize their efficiency.

  • Run your washing machine, dish washer and gas dryer only with full loads.

Make your home more airtight and keep cold air outside:

  • Seal leaks around doors, windows and other openings such as pipes or ducts, with caulk or weather-stripping. The most common places where air escapes in homes are floors, walls, ceilings, ducts, fireplaces, plumbing penetrations, doors, windows, fans, vents, and electrical outlets.
  • If it has been a while, consider adding more insulation in your attic.
  • On sunny days, open draperies and blinds to let the sun’s warmth in. Close them at night to insulate against the cold air outside.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission & 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 over $19 billion. With about 8,600 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 130 years. For more information, visit the Web site at www.CenterPointEnergy.com.