- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Customers of Wisconsin’s largest utility caught a break this past winter.

After paying almost $800 to keep warm during the “polar vortex” winter of 2013-14, bills for a typical We Energies customer were down by almost $190 for the six-month heating season that ended April 30. Company spokesman Brian Manthey told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1F6sfy0 ) that a typical customer’s bill fell 24 percent to $596 for the season.

“It’s certainly a much better picture for customers than it was a year ago,” he said.

While this past winter was 9 percent colder than normal, the previous winter was even more frigid at 20 percent below average.

“Because the price of natural gas remained stable and we didn’t have those spikes we saw last year, natural gas was a very good value for our customers this year,” Manthey said.

Wisconsin utilities store much of their natural gas underground in Michigan. Statistics from the Energy Information Administration indicate more natural gas was withdrawn in December 2013 and January 2014 than at any point since at least 1990. So much gas was used so soon that utilities had to rely on increasingly expensive spot-market gas from the Gulf Coast, which pushed prices to levels not seen since 2005. Natural gas prices at a point in Chicago where utilities buy gas spiked above $40 per 1,000 cubic feet several times in the winter of 2013-14.

Those prices never climbed above $11 this winter, Manthey said.

The State Energy Office said propane and heating oil users also saw savings. Propane prices fell from the previous winter’s record highs and finished the heating season down 25 percent at an average of $1.79 a gallon. Prices had jumped 60 percent amid shortages during the winter of 2013-14. Heating oil prices came down 21 percent this winter.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, https://www.jsonline.com


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