Published January 13, 2023
Over the course of the past year, Minnesotans have seen the impact of higher natural gas prices on their utility bills. As outlined in several of CUB’s prior blog posts, affordability programs are available to utility customers to help them manage the costs of these bills and allow them to keep the lights on and their homes warm. One such initiative is the Gas Affordability Programs (GAP) offered by several gas utilities–including Xcel Energy–to help reduce household energy burdens. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently approved an automatic enrollment process for Xcel’s GAP that will help make the program more accessible to Minnesotans and streamline the process for accessing assistance funds.
GAP is designed to reduce the amount of money households spend on gas costs, promote customer payments, and lower service disconnections for individuals who qualify for the Energy Assistance Program (EAP). In order to be eligible for Xcel’s GAP, customers enrolled in LIHEAP must have gas costs that exceed three percent of their household income and agree to make monthly payments. Once enrolled, GAP limits gas bills to three percent of household income and forgives a portion of past-due balances for households with them, as long as customers make on-time payments on the remainder of the balance.
Under Xcel’s new automatic enrollment process, customers will still be able to apply for GAP normally throughout the majority of the year. However, Xcel will also carry out a once-annual process to automatically enroll eligible LIHEAP customers in GAP. In June, Xcel will reach out to eligible customers with information about the program, including what their gas bills will be. Customers will then have 30 days to decide whether or not to opt out before being automatically enrolled in mid-July. Customers that receive both gas and electric service from Xcel will also be enrolled in PowerOn, the company’s electric-side companion to GAP.
We appreciate the efforts that Xcel has taken to make its Gas Affordability Program more accessible and navigable. We also understand that there may be reasons why customers choose not to participate in GAP. Customers may have a temporary credit on their account or want to access crisis funding before committing to a payment agreement, for example. Under this new auto-enrollment process, customers can still choose for themselves whether GAP is right for them.
If you are struggling to keep up with your bills and want to know more about GAP, affordability programs, and the options available to you, please reach out to us at 651-300-3701 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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