Customers worry about winter heating bills - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Customers worry about winter heating bills

Natural Gas prices have risen sharply in the last year, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have only driven high gas prices higher. For those on fixed incomes, this could be a very long, cold winter.

Buddy (he did not want us to use his last name) is about as careful with his utility use as you can be. His gas meter hardly ever moves. His electric meter barely creeps along. He uses fans, and he keeps his blinds drawn.

Still, he's concerned about a recent announcement by MLGW that heating bills could be 70 percent higher this winter, after hearing the national average will be more like 50 percent.

"Every time you hear Memphis talk it's 70 percent," Buddy said. "But nobody explains what this extra 20 percent is."

A 70 percent increase would mean this $129 bill he paid last winter could be up to $213 this year. It is more than he can afford on a fixed income.

"And living on a fixed income you kind of have to watch your money or you go into debt," he said.

MLGW officials say that 70 percent number they warned of actually came from the department of energy. Today they seemed less certain... And declined to give any

Currently I would say that our customers can expect to pay more than last year, but at what percentage, we're still uncertain," said MLGW spokesperson Laura Campbell.

It's that uncertainty this winter that has Buddy determined to go without heat for as long as he can.

MLGW officials say they do offer programs to help with payments.

"What we would like is the people on fixed income to look at smart pay," Campbell said. "Fix that we can set that price for them, so we can go ahead and set up their budgets."

MLGW totals your bill for the past year, then divides it by 12, and you pay the same amount each month. If you use more energy than you did last year, the extra amount due is added to your bill for next year. For more information on the Smart Pay plan, contact MLGW at (901) 544-MLGW.

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