NIPSCO on Monday told state regulators it is prepared for the winter heating season with adequate natural gas supplies and reiterated customer bills figure to be just slightly above last year's.
NIPSCO CEO Jim Stanley repeated a forecast given by the utility last month, in which it forecast customer bills will be only about 1 percent higher than last winter.
"It's relatively flat compared to last year and we have all our programs in place to help our customers get through winter in paying their bills and their summer bills as well," Stanley told members of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
Stanley's comments came at the 2013 Winter Natural Gas Forum held before the commission in Indianapolis. That forum, and a similar one held before the summer season for electric utilities, lets utilities tell regulators about their preparations. It also allows members of the commission to ask questions and request further information.
NIPSCO has significant storage facilities and is able to buy large amounts of natural gas during the summer months, when prices are generally lower, according to its presentation.
NIPSCO also touted government and utility help programs for those who may have trouble paying their bills.
Last winter, 35,000 NIPSCO customers received home heating assistance from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the utility told commission members.
It also is forecasting customers will receive about $3.5 million in discounts this winter heating season under its Customer Assistance for Residential Energy, or CARE, program. The program was instituted as part of a natural gas rate settlement with consumer groups in 2010 and has been continued.
NIPSCO execs also touted the utility's residential natural gas prices, which remain the lowest in the state. In general, residential natural gas in Indiana has been cheaper than that in the rest of the nation as well.
NIPSCO has 795,000 natural gas customers spread over 32 northern Indiana counties. Its electric business has 457,000 customers in northern Indiana.