SARATOGA SPRINGS — Market prices for natural gas are expected to increase this coming winter heating season.
In anticipation of a cost hike to consumers, National Grid announced it is reaching out to customers to make them aware of the forecast and to promote bill management programs and options to potentially help customers save money on their energy bills.
“We recognize that higher energy prices will add to the financial burden for our customers who are struggling with higher costs at the grocery store, gas pump and elsewhere,” said Melanie Littlejohn, National Grid’s New York Vice President for Customer and Community Engagement, in a statement. “National Grid has many assistance programs available, as well as energy saving strategies, resources and tips. We are encouraging our customers to take action now, before the cold weather arrives.”
Some of those resources include various payment assistance programs for income-eligible customers, residential and business energy efficiency programs and incentives, low-cost and no-cost bill management solutions, and flexible payment programs, according to the energy company – which serves more than 20 million people throughout New York and Massachusetts.
How Current Forecasts Will Affect Winter Bills
Based on current market conditions, National Grid’s residential natural gas customers who use an average of 713 therms during the five-month winter heating season — Nov. 1, 2022, to March 30, 2023 — are forecasted to pay about $263 more than last winter.
That’s a 39% increase for the same amount of energy use over five months, with $231 of that increase attributed to higher wholesale supply prices. The remaining portion of the increase is related to delivery price increases approved as part of the company’s multi-year rate agreement and other customer bill surcharges.
For electricity, National Grid’s winter bill forecast shows that eastern New York residential customers will pay about $116 or 22% more compared to last season. Higher wholesale electricity prices are contributing to $105 of the increase, with the remaining amount associated with a regulatory-approved delivery price increase and other bill surcharges. The forecast is based on average electricity use of 600 kilowatt-hour per month. National Grid defines “eastern New York” as everyplace east of Little Falls and encompassing all of Saratoga County, said regional spokesman Patrick Stella.
The company says it plays an active role in managing the natural gas and electricity purchased on behalf of customers by using gas storage and future price hedges or locked-in pricing. Today’s forecasts factor in the benefit of the company’s hedging strategies, helping to mitigate wholesale supply price volatility on customers’ bills.
Winter bill forecasts are based on information available at the end of August and assume typical winter weather conditions. Energy costs and use are impacted by weather and other market factors that determine actual costs and can be dramatically impacted in real time, the company cautions.
Some Heating Saving Tips
• For every 1 degree a thermostat is set back, customers can save 1% to 3% on their annual heating costs.
• Turn down the thermostat every time you leave the house for two hours or more, and each night before you go to bed. It takes less energy to warm up a cool house than to maintain a warm temperature all day and night.
• Consider a smart thermostat. When used properly, a smart thermostat can save 10% on heating and cooling costs annually.
• Insulate the attic, walls, ceilings, and floors to prevent heat from escaping.
• Open drapes during the day to capture warmth and close them at night to prevent heat loss through windows.
• Seal holes and cracks where cold air can get in, especially in the attic and basement. Reducing drafts in a home may save 15% in heating and cooling costs annually.
• Remove window air conditioning units during the cold months to reduce drafts. If this is not possible, cover the inside and outside of the units.
• If your heating system has a filter, clean or replace it every month during the heating season. Cleaning or replacing filters as directed by the manufacturer can reduce energy use by up to 15%. And have your heating system serviced annually.
• If you’re looking to replace an appliance, choose one that is ENERGY STAR® certified and save anywhere from 10% to 50% in energy costs. For example, replacing a refrigerator that is older than 15 years with an ENERGY STAR® certified refrigerator can save up to $1,000 over the lifetime of the unit.
• Unplug electronic devices when they are not in use, and repair or replace leaky faucets.
• A 100-watt incandescent bulb and 16.6-watt LED bulb each provide approximately 1,500 lumens of brightness. Replacing five incandescent bulbs with LEDs can save more than $11 a month. Lighting accounts for around 15% of a home’s electricity use. The average household can save about $225 in energy costs per year by switching to LED lighting.
Customer Assistance Programs
Customer Assistance Customers having difficulty with affording their energy bills are encouraged to contact National Grid as soon as possible. There are several assistance programs for income-eligible customers. These are some of them:
• New York state’s one-time Electric & Gas Bill Relief credit program, which eliminates unpaid utility bills accrued through May 1, 2022, for eligible customers. Customers can qualify for the arrears relief program until Dec. 31, 2022.
• The federal Home Energy Assistance Program provides eligible customers with financial grants that assist in paying home heating bill. These grants do not need to be repaid. The program is administered by county departments of social service and typically runs from November through March, but the timeframe may be lengthened or shortened based on federal funding availability. For more information about HEAP, contact the Saratoga County Department of Social Services at 518-884-4140.
• National Grid’s Energy Affordability Program, which provides automatic monthly gas and electricity bill credits for HEAP-eligible customers or customers who participate in other qualifying programs. To learn more about EAP, call the Energy Affordability Team at 1-866-305-1915.
• NYSERDA’s EmPower New York Income-Eligible Free Weatherization Program, under which a participating contractor will complete a no-cost home energy assessment to identify if a home would benefit from free energy upgrades such as high-efficiency lighting, attic and wall insulation, replacement of old, inefficient refrigerators and freezers and water-saving showerheads. For more information, call 1-877-NYSMART (1-877-697-6278).
Additional Customer Solutions include: The Budget Billing Program which spreads payments out more evenly across the year, as well as additional payment and billing options, including flexible payment agreements and special protections. For more information, go to: nationalgridus.com.