OREANDA-NEWS. Lower heating costs are expected this winter for Consumers Energy's natural gas customers. Total savings could be more than $100 for an average residential customer, depending on weather and actual usage.  Business customer savings will depend on their gas usage.

"Customer heating costs could be down by more than 15 percent based on normal winter gas consumption," said Tim Sparks, Consumers Energy's vice president of energy supply operations.

"We're reducing costs for customers due to our gas purchasing program which takes full advantage of lower commodity costs. Customers also benefit by Consumers Energy's  underground storage system, the second-largest in the nation," Sparks added. "Our storage system allows us to buy gas when it costs less in the summer, for use by customers during the colder winter months."

Consumers Energy customers are paying 60 percent less for natural gas than a decade ago. The last time the company's fuel prices were this low was in 2001.

The Michigan Public Service Commission also has recently created a website to allow people to compare natural gas prices among Consumers Energy and other gas providers, www.Michigan.gov/CompareMIGas.

"We are proud that our natural gas prices are low, which helps our customers save money when they choose us as their gas supplier," Sparks said, noting that information also is available online at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/gaschoice.

"We also want to make sure our customers have the tools to make an informed decision about natural gas. After all, as a Michigan company, we are committed to the success of our customers and Michigan's economy. By lowering energy costs, we are helping Michigan companies compete and create jobs right here at home."

Consumers Energy encourages customers to take steps to reduce energy waste at their residence and business. Find more than 100 tips on reducing energy waste, and more, at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/energyanswers.

Consumers Energy, Michigan's largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state's 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

NATURAL GAS PRICE: A look at Consumers Energy's natural gas commodity price by year (per thousand cubic feet):