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How Much Will Your January Heating Bill Be? It Depends...

PHOTO: Heating bills for January in Wisconsin will be much bigger than usual because of the bitter cold. (Image of $100 bill from U.S. Treasury)
PHOTO: Heating bills for January in Wisconsin will be much bigger than usual because of the bitter cold. (Image of $100 bill from U.S. Treasury)
January 27, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - It has been a brutally cold January in the Midwest, and a new term - polar vortex - has become part of our vocabulary. The year started out with a record cold snap, breaking records that had stood nearly 100 years, said Scott Reigstad, senior communications program manager, Alliant Energy.

"On Jan. 6, we set a record for gas demand in Wisconsin to our customers, and our Wisconsin utility's subsidiary, Wisconsin Power and Light, has been around since 1917 or something like that," Reigstad said.

Alliant serves more than 1 million electricity customers and nearly 500,000 natural gas customers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. In that first January cold snap, Iowa set all-time usage records for natural gas. Reigstad said it's hard to estimate just how much higher January bills will be.

"The number one thing that drives natural gas bills and heating bills higher for people is usage, and usage is way up during these cold snaps. It will vary by individual customers, how big an area they have to heat, how much they do in energy efficiency, but definitely bills are going to be higher," he predicted.

Wisconsin has a law forbidding utilities from disconnecting customers between Nov. 1 and April 15. Reigstad said if you can't pay your bill when it's due, the best thing is to contact your utility and get on some sort of payment plan so you don't have a huge balance due and face disconnection on April 15.

Your utility company can help you with options like payment plans, he added.

"After we talk to them about a potential payment plan, then we'll also refer them to Wisconsin Energy Assistance - it's an 800 number they can call. When they call that 800 number, they'll get referred to their local county energy assistance office and they have a variety of programs that can help out," he explained.

The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program phone number is 866-HEATWIS.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI