February's bitter cold could cost extra $354 for CenterPoint Energy customers

The natural gas price surge during last month's cold snap could cost the average Minnesota household an extra $354 plus interest over two years, according to a recent filing by CenterPoint Energy to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

Over President's Day weekend, the entire country experienced bitter cold temperatures causing a nationwide spike in demand for natural gas, driving prices up. CenterPoint Energy estimates it incurred $500 million in natural gas costs during that 11-day period. Those costs equal about 156 percent of CenterPoint's total gas costs for all of the previous year.

CenterPoint submitted its plan to PUC on Tuesday, proposing to spread the impact to customers over a two-year period by adding a fixed monthly charge starting in May. That charge will increase in the second year.

For low-income customers, the recovery rate will be set at 50 percent of the standard rate.

Last month, a state commission launched an investigation into the natural gas prices.

MinnCAP, a nonprofit that works with the state to help people pay their energy bills, has expressed concern for Minnesotans to be able to pay the increased costs.

Other Minnesota energy utilities have yet to submit a proposed recovery plan to the PUC.