National Grid customers in Central New York can expect their natural gas bills to go up about 31% this winter because of increased demand and a global spike in prices, a utility spokesman said Friday.
The average residential customer would pay $155 more for natural gas over five months from Nov. 1 through March 31 compared to last winter, said Jared Paventi, a National Grid spokesman in Syracuse.
The projection is based on a typical Upstate New York winter where an average residential customer uses 713 therms of natural gas.
National Grid warned of the price spike in its latest monthly forecast for energy demand and costs at the end of September.
That forecast comes as natural gas contracts in Europe set new highs, rising almost 400% since the start of the year because of tight supplies and rising demand.
"During the pandemic, overall energy demand and prices remained low," Paventi said, "and now as the economy has risen and we begin to rebuild, demand has gone up."
National Grid said its forecast is based on expectations of demand and cost increases in the United States this winter. An average residential bill would rise from a five-month total of $496 last winter to $651 this winter.
"That increase is being driven solely by gas supply," Paventi said. "National Grid doesn't make any money on gas supply. We buy it on the market, and we pass it along without a markup."
The projected average winter heating bill of $651 includes National Grid's delivery cost, which is expected to remain flat at $284 for the full winter, Paventi said.
Overall, natural gas prices have been flat over the past 10 years, with an average residential customer seeing a net $15 increase during that period, Paventi said.
National Grid said electricity prices are expected to remain flat this winter, with the average residential electricity bill costing about $3 less than the same period last winter.
Separately, National Grid last month proposed a settlement with state regulators that would raise Upstate electric and gas rates by about $189 over three years.
Residential electric rates would go up by 2% a year; natural gas bill would go up 2% in the first year, and 3% in the second and third year.
Customers who have trouble paying their hearing bills this winter can ask to enroll in National Grid's Energy Affordability Program. Eligible customers can receive a monthly bill credit.
Separately, the federal Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) helps income-eligible households pay heating bills through federal grants. New York receives about $300 million each year to distribute to qualifying families.
(You can apply for HEAP online at mybenefits.ny.gov/mybenefits/begin or at your county social services department.)
For more information about heating assistance programs, call National Grid at 800-642-4272 and ask for a Consumer Advocate.