Heating, Energy Costs Will Rise

Before you flick a switch this winter, be aware it will cost you. The U.S. Department if Energy is projecting a 26 percent jump in heating costs this winter from last.

The reason is the cost for natural gas, oil and coal. Over the past few years the costs for these products has doubled.

As heating prices rise nationwide, it appears that those of us who live in the southeast will get a break.

"Our costs are lower than most of the rest of the country," said Kurt Brautigam, spokesman for Mississippi Power Company. "For the second year in a row, we're going to see an increase of about 10 to 12 percent."

With will mean an increase of about $10 extra per month. While many might think that power company suppliers are profiting from the increase officials say that's just not the case.

"Fuel costs affect about 40 percent of our overall business and we pass those costs on directly to our customers. We don't make a profit on those costs," said Brautigam.

To make matters worse, in the wake of devastating storms such as Hurricane Katrina, officials say costs could rise even higher.

"We're now trying to determine what that number is, how best to recover those costs, while at the same time minimizing the impact on customers," said Brautigam.

It's expected to be several months before officials know how much of that expense could be passed on to customers. Residents are being offered this advice on how to curb costs during Christmas.

"The old style Christmas lights are out. They burn a lot of energy, use a lot of watts. The miniature style bulbs that are readily available are the ones to go with," said Tim Martin of EMEPA.

With the cost increase, residents who are on fixed incomes are advised to contact their heating company, and if needed, try to make payment arrangements. Unlike prices at the pump, power suppliers say their costs won't come down any time soon.