MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota residents purchasing natural gas from the state's largest utility can expect slightly lower rates this winter compared to last.

Customers of CenterPoint Energy will also receive small refunds on natural gas bills in December. Reports say the happy forecast from utilities, weather forecasters and the federal government rests largely on the expectation that record cold won't repeat. Brian Milne, energy editor for Schneider Electric, says experts aren't anticipating another polar vortex in the Upper Midwest this year.

Milne says prices could still be above average due to cold snaps, but they probably won't be as steep as last year.

A recent forecast from the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Midwest customers will use 13 percent less natural gas this year, causing bills to be 8 percent lower.