North state's heating bills will rise

Southwest Gas alerted Northern Nevada customers on Wednesday that natural gas bills could increase another 40 percent this winter primarily due to rising prices in the natural gas marketplace.

Northern Nevada Division Vice President Dennis Redmond said the company, which serves Carson City, expects bills for the average residential customer using 96 therms to climb from $86.27 in December 2003 to $122.05 this December.

The figures include a pending increase now before the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada. The price Southwest Gas pays for natural gas is passed on to customers dollar for dollar with no profit allowed, Redmond said.

Southwest's gas buyers started seeing more volatility in natural gas prices several years ago. To minimize these price fluctuations, the company purchased about half of its gas supplies for this winter with fixed-price contracts.

Company officials suggest that at the first indication customers may have a bill-payment problem, they should call the Southwest Gas Customer Assistance line toll free, 1-800-832-2555.

Emergency funds are available from the Nevada Energy Connection, administered by the state. Call toll free, 1-866-846-2009 (

The company also has a fuel fund, Energy Share, to help customers with one-time financial emergencies. The fund is administered by the Salvation Army; call 1-775-887-9120.

Customers can reduce the impact of winter's high bills by enrolling in the company's Equal Payment Plan. The program equalizes the gas bill into 12 monthly payments.


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