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2 reasons why heating bills may be higher this winter

Duke Energy warns customers that they should expect higher heating bills this winter. STAFF FILE/2009
Duke Energy warns customers that they should expect higher heating bills this winter. STAFF FILE/2009

Duke Energy warned customers on Tuesday that they should expect higher heating bills this winter.

Lee Freedman, a Duke Energy spokesperson said customers should expect their bills to be $20 to $40 higher per month than a year ago due to two factors.

“Our meteorologists believe temperatures will be about 2 degrees lower than normal. By comparison, temperatures were about 4.5 degrees higher than normal last winter,” Freedman said. “Natural gas prices – while still low by historical standards – are expected to be higher than last year’s near-record-low prices.”

“Temperatures last winter were mild compared to normal, and the cost of natural gas was near record lows,” said Jim Henning, president of Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky. “We expect this winter to be colder, which means customers will likely use more natural gas to heat their homes. Combined with higher natural gas prices, our customers should be prepared for higher heating bills this winter.”

Freedman said Duke Energy offers many free programs and tools to help customers better understand and manage their monthly energy expenses. Those tools include budget billing which gives customers better control over their energy spending by establishing predictable monthly payments; online savings calculators help customers understand how their homes use energy – and how they can potentially reduce their consumption and better manage their heating bills; and high bill alerts sent to customers when adverse weather may lead to a significant increase in energy costs.

Duke Energy partners with local agencies to help customers stay warm. For more information, visit Duke Energy's website or call 800-544-6900 about the special assistance programs.

According to forecasters at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, forecasters said the La Nina pattern developing across the nation hasn’t given a strong signal on how cold it will be this winter.

While temperatures have been colder than normal this month, Meteorologist Eric Coniglio of the National Weather Service said it may not be until the end of December to get a better idea of how the La Nina pattern will affect this part of the nation. Coniglio said the northern tier states are expected to see colder temperatures while the southern tier states will have warmer temperatures than average for the winter.

According to Accuweather.com, a La Nina weather pattern is when easterly trade winds over the equatorial Pacific Ocean. For La Nina, the easterly trade winds strengthen. This blows more warm water west, and allows cold water below the ocean’s surface to push towards the top near the South American coast to replace the warm water. An El Nino pattern is just the opposite.

A typical La Nina winter will feature drier and milder conditions across the South, much like what we’re seeing in the current Southeast drought and elevated fire conditions, according to Accuweather.com. The Pacific Northwest will become wetter than normal, while the Northeast will have cold periods, but these are usually short lived.