National Grid expects 39% price hike for gas

WATERTOWN — National Grid utility customers who heat their homes with natural gas can expect to pay approximately 39% more in the upcoming home-heating season.

A National Grid spokeswoman, in a conference call on Tuesday, said that would translate on average to a winter heating bill of $943 for the season, or $263 over the current year.

The five-month home heating season runs from Nov. 1 to March 31. National Grid says the average residential customer uses 713 therms in that period.

“Therm” is the unit of measurement of natural gas over time. One therm is equal to 100,000 British thermal units, BTUs.

The 713 average figure relates to the “upstate” New York region. National Grid doesn’t calculate average seasonal therms down to individual regions like Northern New York.

Tuesday’s announcement by National Grid was a comparatively early annual pricing forecast by the utility company, which usually releases such data in October.

“We considered how market volatility would impact our customers and wanted to offer as much time as possible so that they might be able to better prepare homes, and certainly assess budgets for the winter heating season,” said Melanie Littlejohn, vice president of customer and community engagement for National Grid.

She said the primary cause for the price jump is the wholesale price of the natural gas supply.

Energy costs and use are also affected by weather conditions — locally and globally.

“We want to remind everyone that the forecast figures we are providing are an approximate and based on a current snapshot in time,” Ms. Littlejohn said.

There are two components of customers’ bills relating to natural gas: energy supply and energy delivery. The supply portion, which includes the actual cost of the natural gas commodity, is set to the market place and is passed on directly to customers without markup.

“Our customers pay what we pay for energy supply,” Ms. Littlejohn said.

The delivery aspect includes such things as the cost of maintaining and repairing the delivery system and responding to emergencies related to the system.

National Grid’s forecast is based on gas industry data from the end of August.

“To mitigate supply and market volatility on customer bills, National Grid plays an active role in managing the natural gas portfolio we purchase on behalf of customers by using storage and future price hedges for locked-in prices,” Ms. Littlejohn said.

For those facing financial hardships paying their bills, Ms. Littlejohn recommended customers go to National Grid’s website for options. That help can range from grant programs to National Grid’s Energy Affordability Program. There is also the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, and also “budget billing” which spreads out the cost of energy over a year, instead of spiking during the five-month heating season.

Last October, National Grid forecast that the average customer would pay about $651 for the home-heating season, approximately $155 more than the previous heating season for the same amount of energy.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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