Pay those bills or bundle up this winter

CenterPoint Energy customers owe $67 million state-wide, resulting in an unprecedented loss of service.

Emma Carew

Students moving in this fall may be unpleasantly surprised to find their natural gas has been turned off over the summer.

CenterPoint Energy has disconnected the service of an unprecedented 24,481 customers this year, Greg Schirmers, manager of credit for CenterPoint Energy, said.

Although numbers of customers for University area neighborhoods were unavailable, Schirmers said it was likely that students might have lost service during the summer months.

About $67 million is owed in past-due bills statewide, said CenterPoint Energy spokesperson Rolf Lund.

For customers who have lost service, a repayment plan will be necessary to restart natural gas service before this winter, Schirmers said.

If students find their service has been disconnected due to a previous tenant’s not paying, they should contact CenterPoint immediately and identify themselves as a new tenant in order to reconnect service, he said.

If students have lost service due to their own payment negligence, they should still contact CenterPoint to work out a repayment plan.

“Repayment plans are going to take into account the property usage, how much that property uses over a period of time, and the other component is driven by the person’s income,” Schirmers said.

Minnesota Public Interest Research Group task force leader Emily Walz said students can make small changes in their lifestyles this fall to help keep their energy bills down and avoid falling behind.

Things like unplugging computers and appliances when they aren’t in use can help save energy, Walz said.

More specifically to natural gas bills, students should turn their heat down when they aren’t home and try doing laundry with cold water, she said.

Around campus, students are banding together by community to try and conserve.

In the Southeast Como neighborhood, for instance, the Southeast Como Improvement Association has implemented a rain barrel program to save water and is in the process of purchasing solar water heaters, Jeremiah Peterson, chairman of the SECIA safety committee, said.

Students in the Southeast Como neighborhood can contact SECIA for more information about either program.