High Xcel bills caused huge increase in people applying for help

High Xcel energy costs have led to a huge increase in the number of people who say they need help paying their bills.
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 11:53 AM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - People paying their gas bills were hit with some sticker shock as wholesale natural gas prices hit a peak. High bills led to a huge increase in the number of people who say they need help paying their bills.

One nonprofit says it saw a 20 percent increase of people asking for their help in January of 2023 compared to January of 2022.

For some residents though, the future decrease in cost doesn’t mean much for people who can’t pay their bills now. Deb Foley, an Xcel Gas customer, was in for a shock when she opened her gas bill. “My bill tripled within a month. I’m a one person household and nothing has changed with my usage,” said Foley.

High natural gas prices combined with an Xcel rate hike caused her bills to to triple, reaching $160 for a month. Foley says she wasn’t expecting the budget-busting bill, and neither were the organizations who help pay bills for people who can’t afford to.

Denise Stepto from Energy Outreach Colorado said that her organization didn’t see this coming. Energy Outreach Colorado is one of two payment assistance groups Xcel sends people to when they can’t pay their bills. It received 15,000 calls the week before Christmas, three times as many as the same week the year before.

Outreach groups have their limits, however, and asking for help can cause more problems down the line. Energy Outreach Colorado and Leap, the other organization Xcel sends people to, can each only help with one payment.

Xcel says the wholesale price of natural gas should fall over the next two months, reducing bills slightly by around $17.

Energy Outreach says that it expects the number of people needing help to remain high for the foreseeable future as bills arrive for sub-zero temperatures in December.