NIPSCO customers can look forward to paying the same base rate for natural gas through 2020, after the utility reached an agreement with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
The state agency just approved a settlement agreement that effectively extends the same natural gas rates it approved in 2010. NIPSCO must file another rate case before the end of 2020, but the company expects to keep its base rates the same until then.
Overall bills could tick up in 2015 at the earliest, after NIPSCO files a long-term plan for modernizing its natural gas infrastructure later this year.
Natural gas commodity prices have been cheap because of a recent boom in production in North America. NIPSCO does not expect the low prices to change anytime soon.
"Natural gas, and its projected cost in the market, continues to be a great value for customers for the foreseeable future," said Jim Stanley, NIPSCO's chief executive officer. "The decision is great news for the state and much of the country."
Consumers will benefit from the settlement, and the extension of the 2010 rates, said Anthony Swinger, spokesman for the Indiana Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor.
NIPSCO will not change its monthly gas delivery/service charge now that the settlement has been finalized. Residential customers will continue to pay a fixed $11 a month customer service charge, in addition to varying usage charges.
The Merrillville-based utility also will continue to offer low-income customers a heating assistance program and reduced deposit requirements.
NIPSCO, the largest natural gas distribution company in Indiana, operates three natural storage facilities that connect to seven interstate pipelines. The company buys natural gas at the lowest rates it can find at different times of the year, and then stores the gas to offset the volatility of market prices.
The utility, which services more than 712,000 natural gas customers across the northern third of Indiana, plans to release its estimates of winter heating bills in October.