Now is the time to get help with rising winter heating costs

NOW: Now is the time to get help with rising winter heating costs


WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- This winter, energy costs could be the most expensive in a decade according to the Citizens Utility Board.

We Energies officials estimate a potential $120 to $180 more will be spent over the last year by consumers.

They say even with work being done to keep natural gas affordable locally, heat will still be more expensive for the consumer this winter.

Citizens Utility Board say costs are already too high.

"We expect this winter, unfortunately, heating bills are going to rise. We're estimated about $20 to $30 more a month, starting from November through April, and it is all driven by one thing -- the cost of natural gas," said Brendan Conway with We Energies, trying to warn customers ahead of this happening.

Tom Content, with the Citizens Utility Board, says a new study from Berkley shows Americans across the country pay too much for their heating bills -- bills he says are even higher in Wisconsin than nationally.

"So even bringing it down to the national average, we'd still be overpaying, but it'd be a lot better than it is today," said Content.

His organization is going to the Public Service Commission, asking for them to reconsider the rates being put forth by utility companies in Wisconsin.

"I certainly hope that the Public Service Commission will think about the impact of these increases on customers when they vote in November," said Content.

Conway says around 70% of an energy bill is the cost of gas, the other 30% is delivery costs and other fees that he says go towards maintaining infrastructure to avoid failures.

"We need to be able to make sure that we can provide that affordable, reliable service to our customers on the coldest of cold days," said Conway.

Conway says payment plans and over $150,000,000 in assistance are available.

"We don't ever want customers, particularly this time of year, to be worried about their bill. But we do ask them to take one step and that's to contact us," said Conway.

Content says now's the time to reach out to organizations like the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund and the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program.

"People should really reach out. If they're, if they need energy assistance, the applications are open now," said Content.

The Citizens Utility Board has tips on how you can combat rising energy and heat costs.

Milwaukee County offers savings through the Energy Assistance Program for qualified homeowners. Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program is based on income levels to help individuals pay for heat and electric bills.

The nonprofit Keep Wisconsin Warm & Cool Fund is also a statewide resource available for those struggling to pay their bills.

Starting Nov. 1, utility companies cannot shut off heat or electricity according to Wisconsin state law.

This doesn't apply to people who are already disconnected or behind, so starting the conversation now is important.

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