Iowa homeowners are getting very encouraging news about the anticipated heating costs of the upcoming winter. Natural gas prices are down considerably from a year ago and Iowa’s largest utility predicts our heating bills could be down significantly as well. Mark Reinders, spokesman for MidAmerican Energy, says they’re planning for the cold weather with a solid supply of natural gas.
"The supply is plentiful out there and that’s helped driving down the price of natural gas," Reinders says. "A lot of companies put natural gas product into storage last year and didn’t use it all so that carried over into this upcoming winter season." He says customers in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota could see bills drop 40-percent compared to last year, if we end up with a normal winter. Reinders says MidAmerican already has most of its winter supply of natural gas locked up.
He says the Des Moines-based utility goes into the season with 75-percent of its overall needs for the season ahead either in underground storage or contracted under fixed prices. "The price of natural gas has remained low," Reinders says. "Normally, as we’re going into September and October, the price of natural gas goes up because they’re getting ready for the winter season but we haven’t seen a lot of that yet. The huge factors are the actual weather conditions. If the weather turns real cold late in the fall and early winter, that obviously drives the price of natural gas up."
Reinders says the low prices may allow the utility to begin working on its supplies for the following winter. "If the price continues to stay low as the winter goes on, then obviously they’ll start buying more on contract for the next winter season," Reinders says. "We hate to think too far out, but 2010-2011. As we deplete our underground storage and our contracting, we’ll then go out and buy some during this upcoming winter for next year."
Officials with Alliant Energy estimate the low natural gas prices will translate to a drop of 20-percent on winter heating bills for its customers, compared to last year.