In-depth: Why natural gas bills are coming down in other states but not Tennessee

Natural gas prices are at a 5-year high
Piedmont gas meter
Posted at 5:13 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 20:25:48-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — We're diving deeper into the price you're paying this winter to heat your homes with natural gas.

On Monday, a NewsChannel 5 story highlighted that some Piedmont customers are paying 45% more than last year.

According to Piedmont Natural Gas, the company likely won't lower rates until the price of natural gas itself goes down.

"We go and buy natural gas at the lowest possible rates and then pass that through to our customer," said Jennifer Sharpe, a company spokesperson. "We want our customers to have low natural gas costs, so we look for lower natural gas rates. Unfortunately, what is happening now because of a myriad of reasons is the cost of natural gas globally is just skyrocketing."

According to industry experts, pent-up demand after a lull at the beginning of the pandemic is a big driver of the current cost of natural gas. However, what customers are paying for natural gas varies state to state.

Piedmont Natural Gas, based in North Carolina, has one million customers in three states. High bills in Tennessee will likely continue this winter because of the sheer cost of the commodity, yet rates in other states are expected to fluctuate because the cost of big infrastructure projects is coming down. That is factored into billing too.

"From the meter that is at your home or business to the major pipeline running underneath streets. We charge [customers] to operate that. It happens to be the case right now in the Carolinas that rates have been adjusted there to accommodate a lot of that infrastructure and safety work, and it just so happens these increases that Tennessee is experiencing now don't have to do with that," Sharpe said.

If you're worried about being able to pay your heating bills this winter there are some programs that can help.

Piedmont suggests the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP). It provides winter heating assistance to pay for gas, electric and other methods customers use to heat their homes.

The company also suggests contacting Tennessee Housing Development Agency. Another option is to sign up for Piedmont's Equal Payment Program. The program evenly distributes a customer's payments over a 12-month period.