Frigid temperatures across much of the nation increased demand for natural gas, impacting the supply and causing unprecedented price spikes in the market price in mid-February.
Not only was demand for natural gas higher due to regional subzero temperatures, but numerous natural gas and oil fields in Texas and Oklahoma were forced to shut down production due to freeze offs and to protect equipment that normally would provide natural gas to the pipeline system. In addition, in many parts of the country natural gas fired generators were used to generate needed electricity, placing additional pressures on the natural gas demand and market prices.
Jo-Carroll Energy is cautioning the cooperative’s natural gas members it expects their next bills will be several times higher than normal.
“Increased use due to the record cold, coupled with decreased production caused natural gas prices to skyrocket on several pipelines that supply Jo-Carroll with wholesale natural gas,” said Mike Casper, JCE president and CEO.
The prices were unprecedented and some of the highest seen in most markets. The event not only impacted JCE but municipalities and utilities throughout the Midwest and beyond.
“We are working with officials, stakeholders and other utilities to determine what can be done to lessen the impact,” Casper said.
“The increases are significant,” Casper stressed. “In about a week’s time, the market price on one of the pipelines jumped 75 times higher, impacting the cost of natural gas the co-op had to purchase on the market.”
An individual natural gas member’s bill may not reflect such an extreme increase because of the co-op’s contract and storage strategies. “But we do expect it to be significant,” Casper said.
Casper encouraged members who may find themselves in need of assistance to contact the cooperative. JCE does have programs and billing options for members who may need assistance and to help manage their energy bills. Energy assistance programs such as LIHEAP and the co-op’s own Neighbor to Neighbor fund are available to eligible members.
Energy cost management tools are available also. These include budget billing or levelized billing that can help spread annual energy costs out more evenly over a 12-month period.