BUTTE — In February, negative temperatures stretched across Montana and the Midwest causing Northwestern Energy to make additional natural gas purchases to keep up with customer demand.
"After Montana’s very very cold temperature, right after that. . . there was actually a heating emergency in much of the Midwest and natural gas prices were at unprecedented highs," said Jo Dee Black, Northwestern Energy's public relations specialist.
For the next four months, this high demand for natural gas use will be reflected on customers' bills.
In customers' March bill, there will be a $10 increase.
The April bill will see an additional $10 increase on top of the March increase.
And in May there will be a small increase which is unknown at this time, but let’s say it’s $5.
So, in March- the average Montana natural gas customer’s bill will be about $87.45. Add the$10 increase, the average becomes $97.45. In April, customers will pay around $107.45 In May, customers will pay around $112.45.
That’s just the increase in the average number. It also depends on what appliances use natural gas and how many people in the household are using it because everybody's energy use is different.
Black said that natural gas rates should return to normal by July. If customer’s need help paying their bills, Northwestern Energy offers programs to help.
"We have budget billing which evens out the amount that you pay every month which is a nice way to fit that into your household budget and there are some other options too, so we really encourage people to reach out to us," Black said.