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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, Aug. 25, 2008
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, Communications Manager, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201
Balanced billing is an option to deal with higher winter heating costs
PIERRE, S.D. – In advance of higher winter heating costs, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission encourages residents to consider using a balanced billing option offered by their natural gas or electric utility. The billing method averages the user's monthly payment and evenly spreads the expense over 12 months.
Some utility companies refer to the payment option as levelized or budget billing, or even or averaged monthly payment. Balanced billing typically works like this: the utility company reviews the customer's past bills to arrive at a monthly average. The customer is billed this average amount each month, regardless of their level of actual energy use. The company still tracks monthly usage, monitors the customer's account and lets the customer know if adjustments to the balanced billing are necessary throughout the year. It is not a discount program. Some propane companies offer balanced billing to their customers as well.
"Using balanced billing is an effective way for folks to brace themselves for this winter's expected high heating costs," said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. "Customers will have a pretty good idea of what their monthly bill will be before it arrives in their mailbox. It is a good budgeting tool," he said.
PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck pointed out the advantages balanced billing gives the state's residents. "South Dakotans undoubtedly will experience a fairly mild month followed by a bitterly cold one," Kolbeck said. "With balanced billing – because you're paying an average – those types of unexpected temperature swings don't sting your checkbook as much," he said.
This summer, the PUC embarked on an effort to educate South Dakotans on winter heating costs. "Visitors to our booth at the South Dakota State Fair will notice PUC staff wearing buttons that read ‘Are you ready?'," said PUC Commissioner Dusty Johnson. "Arranging for balanced billing is one of many things consumers can do to get ready for winter," he suggested.
Contact your local utility provider for specifics on their balanced billing program. Other ways to be ready this winter are by making energy efficiency home improvements. See the South Dakota Energy Smart Web site at www.SDEnergySmart.com or contact your energy provider's Web site for tips. For information about energy assistance available to qualifying South Dakotans, go to www.SDConnect.sd.gov and click on "Energy Assistance."
Note to editors/producers: This is the second in a series of releases by the PUC about winter heating costs. See the first release on the PUC's Web site at http://puc.sd.gov/News/2008/default.aspx.