ST. PAUL (AP) -- Natural gas bills should be 35 to 45 percent lower this year than last in Minnesota, Xcel Energy Inc. officials said.
Assuming normal winter weather, the heating bill for an average residential natural gas customer in Minnesota is expected to be about $550 for the five winter months (November through March), Xcel spokesman Ed Legge said Monday.
"And it could be even a little lower," he said.
Although lower than last year, the bills likely will be higher than in previous years.
Consumers were hit twice last winter. Natural gas costs rose 50 to 60 percent from the winter before, on top of colder-than-normal weather. In February, for instance, temperatures were about 11 percent colder than normal.
Reliant Energy Minnegasco also expects substantially lower costs for consumers, although it didn't have specific projections late Monday.
"Our expectation is that prices should be lower than last year, although more than likely higher than what customers have seen in previous years," said Reliant spokesman Rolf Lund. "The price of gas changes on a month-to-month basis, but we have seen significant decreases in the wholesale price."
Legge said the natural gas industry "is in a much better position than we were a year ago. For one thing, the industry is a month ahead on storage than last year. A year ago, there was not as much in storage as we needed."
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