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IID locks in natural gas price

January 09, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

While there are unanswered questions about how power issues will affect Imperial Valley residents, particularly during the summer, the Imperial Irrigation District has resolved one key issue.

IID General Manager Jesse Silva said this morning the district has locked in a price it will pay for natural gas during the summer at $7.90 per million BTU.

IID officials said they are hopeful setting that price will prove beneficial for customers by helping prevent enormous power bills this summer.

They have pointed out there is some risk in setting that price. If the cost of natural gas drops below $7.90 per million BTU, IID would be paying more than the market standard. IID officials do not think that will happen.

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The concern over natural gas has been sparked by violent fluctuations in prices in which the cost of natural gas has reached as high as $52 per million BTU.

Natural gas is a critical issue for IID because local power plants are fueled by natural gas.

Last summer IID was paying less than $3 per million BTU. For that reason, IID officials have said the locked-in price for the summer will likely bring larger power bills.

While the actual power rate will not increase, there is a portion of the IID power bill called energy cost adjustment. IID can increase or decrease that area of the bill based on the cost of supplying power.

John Steffen, IID power department manager, said now that IID has locked in the cost of natural gas, the district likely would start increasing the energy cost adjustment in February. That means customers could start to see the cost of energy increase at that time.

IID officials said it is better to start increasing the energy cost adjustment now to spread the increase over time rather than allow costs to increase all at once.

"We are trying to prevent a huge increase during the summer," Steffen said.

Steffen added customers should keep power conservation in mind.

Sue Giller, an IID spokeswoman, said people can take steps to control their winter power bills and start planning for the summer.

She said people should consider setting their thermostats at 68 degrees and use the sun to help heat their homes. She said one idea is to prune trees, plants or shrubs that block the sun from coming in through a window.

She also suggested pulling back drapes to allow in sunlight.

Giller said during the summer people should set thermostats at 78 degrees and use fans in rooms. She also said during the summer it is best to cover windows hit by direct sunlight.

Giller added as of Jan. 15 IID will offer a program in which people will pay $25 less for having their air conditioners serviced.

However, she said it is important to note only certain air conditioner service companies are taking part in the program, adding people should ask a company whether it is working with IID on the program.

Giller added IID does energy audits on homes or businesses at no cost to those interested. For more information about an energy audit, call 339-9032.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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