MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesotans may have to pay even more than expected for heating bills this winter.
Xcel Energy, formerly Northern States Power Co., revised its estimates of heating bill costs. Xcel said Wednesday its natural gas customers could face heating bills that are 35 percent to 50 percent higher than last winter's.
If that happens, Xcel's average Minnesota residential customers would have to pay as much as $45 more per month for natural gas in the peak winter months of November through next March.
The Minneapolis-based utility's forecast for its 369,000 Minnesota natural gas customers assumes an average winter.
Last month, Xcel was projecting a 20 percent rise in winter heating bills. But the company revised its forecast in the wake of a continuing surge in natural gas prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange, said Scott Hults, Xcel's manager of gas supply.
"The way things look now on the commodities market, we could be seeing prices on the higher end," he said.
At Reliant Energy-Minnegasco in Minneapolis, utility officials have predicted natural gas prices will rise 30 percent to 35 percent, with bills for average homeowners up $15 to $20 a month. Like Xcel, those estimates could rise given the recent increase in wholesale rates.
Minnegasco serves 685,000 commercial and residential customers in primarily Minneapolis and the Twin Cities western suburbs.
Both utilities expect natural gas prices to go even higher if Minnesota has a colder than normal winter.
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