Nearly half of Centerpoint Energy customers to get refund credits

CenterPoint Energy customers who were pushed into a higher pricing tier during a controversial pilot program will begin getting refunds on their bills starting Monday, May 21, the utility said.

The refunds will go to about 370,000 customers, or 46 percent of the utility's Minnesota customer base, and will average about $3.45 per household, spokeswoman Rebecca Virden said.

Besides serving Minneapolis and the west metro, CenterPoint serves some east metro suburbs, including Apple Valley, Hastings, Mounds View, Oakdale and Woodbury.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission ordered the refunds in April after Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson complained that a PUC-approved pilot program to set up different rates for natural gas usage was unfair.

The program charged higher rates for customers who used more natural gas in an effort to encourage conservation.

But some customers, such as the elderly or those with medical conditions who had to keep their heat turned up, were pushed unfairly into the higher pricing tiers, Swanson said.

About 80 percent of CenterPoint customers paid the same or less under the pilot, Virden said.

The one-time refunds will show up as bill credits and cover the period from July 1, 2010, to October 13, 2011.

The credits range from as low as 45 cents to as high as $697 for one commercial customer, Virden said.

Houston-based CenterPoint has no plans to bring back the tiered pricing program, she said.

Pioneer Press
Article Publish Date: 
May 18, 2012