Utility Bills Rise As Temps Drop

If living through sub-zero conditions wasn’t enough torture these past couple weeks, wait until you open your next utility bill.

The increased use of the heat in your home during the cold spell is one reason National Grid is deferring a hike in electric costs. According to a news release from the utility company, National Grid has requested and received approval to defer upcoming increases in electricity supply prices for Upstate New York residential and small business customers. The deferment will assist the company’s upstate electricity customers energy costs during an unusually cold winter season.

Costs for electricity supply – the actual energy itself – for Upstate New York have increased substantially in the past few months due to colder-than-normal weather conditions, and a dramatic rise in the cost of natural gas that fuels many electricity generating stations. These increases, coupled with much higher than typical usage, prompted the company to take action to help stabilize energy costs for its customers.

Electricity supply costs in February would have increased total bills approximately 20 to 30 percent if the hike wouldn’t have been deferred. However, the deferred payment will be still be recovered in future months by National Grid.

National Grid officials state they do not control or set the cost of electricity or natural gas supply. It purchases the commodity on behalf of its customers and passes that cost on directly without markup. Even though the company’s delivery rates have been reduced twice in the last two years, rapidly rising supply costs and dramatically higher customer usage has resulted in higher-than-normal winter bills for many customers.

“This year’s colder-than-normal temperatures have made this a particularly challenging winter season for our customers,” said Ken Daly, National Grid of New York president. “The significant increase in electricity supply costs has made the situation even more critical. We are pleased that the New York Public Service Commission reviewed and approved our emergency proposal quickly to help provide some immediate relief to our customers.”

Customers who are having difficulty paying their utility bill are also urged to contact National Grid – call 800-642-4272 or visit www.nationalgridus.com – as soon as possible. National Grid has consumer advocates that can help utility customers through a variety of company, state and federal programs.

HEATING ASSISTANCE

U.S. senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand both announced there will be more than $50 million available in home heating assistance funds available for state residents. The Department of Health and Human Services will release $454 million in home heating aid nationwide. In light of record-low temperatures and extreme weather slamming Upstate New York, Schumer and Gillibrand have fought to address the fact that heating assistance funding has been on a steady decline since 2011 – despite the steady increase in home heating costs, below-average winter temperatures and rising heating costs.

Schumer said the $50.6 million investment will help more households with funding than in the last several years.

“With the wolf of winter cold snapping at the door, this urgently needed home heating aid arrived not a moment too soon for countless New York seniors and struggling families,” Schumer said. “This massive release of $50.6 million in federal funding to New York will provide critical relief to residents and senior citizens who were being forced to choose between heating their homes or putting food on the table. With record-breaking freezes occurring in New York and across the country, there was simply no reason for the government to hold onto millions of dollars in home heating aid; I’m thrilled that the feds have quickly released this funding to New York for immediate use this winter.”

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months. Even though the number of households eligible for the program continues to exceed those receiving assistance, this funding has been a lifeline during the economic downturn and rising energy costs, helping to ensure that people do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food or medicine.

“No New York family should ever be left in the cold,” Gillibrand said. ”But with bitter cold temperatures and rising energy costs, families and seniors who are struggling in this tough economy can’t afford to heat their homes. This funding is a lifeline for New Yorkers who rely on it so they can stay warm this winter.”