CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – National Grid customers can expect to see a significant increase on their electric bill this winter. Starting in November, National Grid electric bills could increase by 37% this winter; that’s about $33 more per month for the average customer.
National Grid Spokesman Jake Novarro blames the limited supply of natural gas used to generate electricity. He said, “When you have a really cold winter day, there’s not enough gas in the system to fuel all those electric generators because again people using it to heat their homes on those days.”
The new rate will go into effect this November and remain in effect until April. Navarro told 22News customers will notice the increase in the “supply section” of the bill, but not in the delivery section. “The delivery section is really National Grid business, it’s how we make money, and that part of the bill is not really being affected by this, it’s really that commodity section,” said Navarro.
Unable to control increasing supply costs, National Grid’s asking customers to conserve energy use. Assistant Manager at Rocky’s in East Longmeadow Kevin White told 22News, “Unplugging your phone charger when you’re not charging your phone. It still consumes a small amount of electricity, so every little bit helps.”
If you have electric heat at home, another way to reduce your electricity consumption is to weatherize your house, so you don’t waste electricity and money to stay warm this winter. Insulate windows, patios and attics, and seal cracks and gaps to prevent draft.
White said, “You can do the dollar bill trick. put a dollar bill inside the door, close the door. If you can pull the dollar bill out, you have a gap. If it holds nice and tight, you’re good.”
Also, setting your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re home and lower when you’re sleeping can save you money as well.
Western Massachusetts Electric Company rates are locked in through the end of the year, and haven’t said yet if their rates will change in January. Spokeswoman Priscilla Ress told 22News WMECO faces the same challenges as National Grid when it comes to supply source prices.
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Below is a news release National Grid sent to 22News regarding the winter rates and tips on how customers can lower their bill:
National Grid recently filed with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to adjust electric and gas rates for the winter. The company’s electric customers will see a significant increase in their bills due to higher power supply prices (the cost of the electricity National Grid buys for customers and passes on without a mark up). Starting in November, a typical residential customer will see an electric bill that is 37 percent higher than last winter for the same amount of electricity used. Gas rates will be one to three percent lower than last year, but using more natural gas for home heating as the weather cools down means that gas bills will rise for most customers as they do every winter.
“With the chance of another cold winter on the way, National Grid is very concerned about what higher energy costs mean for our customers,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts. “Though we can’t control power supply prices, we can help our customers in other ways, which is why we urge Massachusetts residents to take full advantage of energy efficiency and payment programs that can help lower their bills.”
A typical residential basic service customer using 500 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month will see an increase of 37 percent, or about $33, on monthly bills this winter (from November to April) versus the same period last winter. The section of electric bills where customers will see the majority of the difference is called Supply Services. This section of the bill represents the cost of the electricity the company purchases on behalf of customers and passes on without a mark up.
National Grid does not generate electricity and plays no role in determining market prices; the company delivers electricity to the homes and businesses of customers. With about half of New England’s electricity generation now fueled by natural gas, electric commodity prices have risen again this winter because of continued constraints on the natural gas pipelines serving the region, which decrease natural gas availability at times of peak demand, causing some generators to buy gas on the spot market at higher prices, switch over to alternate fuels or not run at all.
Natural Gas Rates
Starting in November, a typical residential natural gas customer will see a decrease in monthly bills of between $2 and $5 (one to three percent). The majority of this decrease is due to a credit National Grid is passing on to customers through reduced delivery charges. This credit is driven by last winter’s colder-than-normal weather, when National Grid customers used more gas than forecasted. As a pipes-and-wires company, National Grid does not make more money when customers use more gas or electricity, so when customers consume more than forecasted, the company refunds that excess the next year. Natural gas is also transported via interstate pipelines into New England and can be liquefied or stored in preparation for the winter heating season, making prices less volatile. Electricity, on the other hand, cannot be stored on a large scale and must be generated as it is needed.
How Can You Lower Your Bills?
There are steps customers can take now to help manage their energy costs this winter. National Grid has a three decade history of helping New England customers realize energy savings through energy efficiency programs. The company encourages customers to learn about energy efficiency, savings tips and much more at http://www.nationalgridus.com/EnergyEfficiencyServices. Lowering a thermostat between six and nine degrees when sleeping, for example, can save up to 10 percent per year on heating costs. National Grid also offers incentives that cover a wide variety of energy efficient home equipment including programmable thermostats and high-efficiency natural gas heating furnaces or boilers, which could mean savings of up to 30 percent off energy bills.
Billing options and discount rates also are available to help eligible customers who may have difficulty paying their monthly gas or electric bill. National Grid offers programs to help customers spread payments out more evenly across the year, which are particularly helpful to those on fixed incomes. Discounted rates are based on service area and certain eligibility requirements. For more information about the availability of these rates, customers should contact National Grid at 800-322-3223. Local initiatives, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), community action agencies and the state department of social services can also help customers who need help with their bills. Another option for customers is to choose an alternative energy supplier to purchase power supply on their behalf. A list of competitive suppliers is available at our website: http://www.nationalgridus.com.