HUDSON — National Grid natural gas customers could be in for sticker shock when they receive their heating bills this winter as the utility company estimates a 39% increase in rates over last year.
According to the company, residential natural gas customers who use an average of 713 therms during the five-month winter heating season between Nov. 1 and the end of March 2023 will pay an estimated $263 more than last winter.
The company is attributing the rise in costs to an increase in wholesale supply prices, with National Grid estimating that $231 of the expected $263 increase will be due to the supply prices.
The utility said the remainder of the increased costs are due to delivery price increases, which were approved by the New York Public Service Commission as part of the company’s multi-year rate agreement.
In January, the PSC approved an increase of 3.13% for National Grid natural gas customers for July 2022 to July 2023 and an increase of between 1.98% to 2.12% for the company’s electricity customers over the same period.
National Grid electric customers are also in for a price hike this winter, as the utility estimates that residential customers who use 600 kilowatt-hours per month will pay approximately 22% more, or $116, compared to last winter.
Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said he has not heard from constituents about the rate increase, but is concerned about residents’ capacity to keep paying for utility rate hikes.
“I haven’t heard anything yet about this increase, but last year we heard from several people who were upset about it because there was a similar increase last year,” Murell said Friday. “So it is concerning. You’re talking about almost 60% over a two-year period. You worry about how residents are going to be able to pay for it.”
Murell said the county is limited in its ability to address the utility company’s rate increases.
“I think it’s doubtful we’d have any recourse because it’s all set and approved by the Public Service Commission,” he said.
Murell noted that Columbia residents can apply for the county’s Home Energy Assistance Program. Residents can contact the Columbia County Department of Social Services at 518-828-9411 for more information on the program.
“It’s money that comes through DSS, but our Office for the Aging administers it for seniors and DSS administers it for their clients,” Murell said.
With an estimated rate increase of 39% for natural gas customers this winter, National Grid notes that the company has payment assistance programs for income-eligible customers, in addition to flexible payment programs.
“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,” Melanie Littlejohn, National Grid’s New York vice president for customer andc ommunity engagement, said in a statement. “Our commitment is to support our customers by helping them stay warm and safe this winter. 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.”
National Grid provides natural gas service to customers in Hudson, Ghent, Claverack, Stockport and Stuyvesant, as well as electric service to residents in Chatham, Hudson, Greenport, Kinderhook and Livingston, among other Columbia municipalities.
To save energy this winter, the utility company said consumers can save 1% to 3% on annual heating costs for every degree a thermostat is set back, and the company urges residents to insulate the attics, walls, ceilings and floors of their homes to prevent heat from escaping their homes.
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