I-Team: Why electricity rates are rising

The average customer will pay about $33 more per month this winter

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – If you have electric heat, you’re likely going to be paying a lot more this winter.

“Massachusetts is one of those that where bills will be up about 25% over last year,” said U.S. Energy Information Administration Administrator Adam Sieminski.

National Grid says the average customer will pay about $33 more per month this winter compared to last; from $88 a month to $121 a month. The 22News I-Team went to National Grid’s Massachusetts headquarters in Waltham to get some answers.

“The short term solution is that we really need a greater supply of natural gas to the region,” said National Grid spokesman Jake Navarro.

(Natural Gas is a domestic product we have an abundance in America, why is it so difficult to get it in Massachusetts?)

“That’s a great question, it’s a less expensive fuel, cleaner burning fuel, There’s not enough natural gas to fuel all the customers that want to fuel their homes and business and the electricity generators,” said Navarro.

There are approximately 350 generators across New England. Electricity Grids are powered by all different types of energy. Even if you have electric heat, natural gas still plays a major role in what you pay.

In 2000, Natural Gas fired power plants produced about 15% of the electricity in New England. In 2013, natural gas produced nearly half (46%) of the region’s electricity.

ISO New England in Holyoke manages the flow of electricity over the high voltage power lines in New England and administers the wholesale electricity markets that determine which power plants operate.

(What role does the Mt Tom Coal plant and the Vermont Yankee power plant decommissioning have on the type of sources you can use to power your grid?

“Losing non- natural gas fired power plants really just exacerbates the region’s dependence on natural gas to produce electricity,” said ISO New England spokeswoman Lacey Girard.

On really cold days, the natural gas pipeline gets congested like a busy highway. Natural Gas heated homes get first priority forcing electric grids to find another energy source.

“The generators if there is that constraint, that traffic jam of natural gas on the pipeline, they might have to switch to an alternate fuel that could be costlier. That’s really what’s sending the electricity supply prices up so much,” said Navarro.

If you use natural gas to heat your home or business, Columbia Gas spokeswoman Sheila Doiron told 22News their prices this winter to what customers paid last winter. Gas utilities have first priority for the natural gas in the pipeline.

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