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Natural gas prices likely to cause higher heating bills this winter

Charles MegginsonBusiness, Headlines

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Natural gas prices are expected to cause higher heating bills this winter. (Doris Morgan at Unsplash)

With overnight temperatures dipping into the 40s, you’ll likely soon be reaching for the thermostat to turn on the heat (if you haven’t already).

Just in time for the cooler weather, Delaware’s public advocate is warning the 43% of Delawareans who rely on natural gas to warm their homes to expect a shock when it comes time to pay the bill.

According to the Energy Information Administration, natural gas prices have increased by 30% since the end of Aug. 2021, largely due to increased demand in the United States, decreased supply and the ongoing energy crisis in Europe.

That could translate to around $60 annually for the average residential customer. 

“Due to the increase in wholesale natural gas prices, end-use customers will see an increase during the winter months,” said Public Advocate Andrew Slater. “However, there are ways to reduce your usage and keep utility bills reasonable. Energy utility bills are some of the only bills where amount owed is dependent on usage.”

The price hikes

Chesapeake Utilities recently filed changes to its Gas Sales Rate, a passthrough cost to customers, to reflect the higher natural gas prices. According to its filing, an average residential service customer “using 700 CCF per year will experience an annual increase of approximately 6.03% or $62.30.” 

Delmarva Power’s application to change its Gas Cost Rate also reflected an increase in costs for residential customers. According to its filing, “a typical residential customer using 83 CCF in a winter month would [see] an increase of $5.64 or 6.1%.” 

Both rates will become effective Nov. 1, 2021, subject to refund, while the rates are reviewed by both the Division of the Public Advocate and Public Service Commission Staff.

How to reduce your bill

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating accounts for the biggest portion of consumers’ utility bills. Savings tips include turning your thermostat down a few degrees, replacing dirty furnace filters, weather stripping doors and windows, opening shades on sunny days, and closing vents and doors of unoccupied areas.

Delawareans can contact Energize Delaware about its Home Performance with Energy Star, Home Energy Counseling and Check-Up programs. These programs are designed to find areas that may need weatherization and could potentially produce savings.

For additional tips on lowering your gas bill, the public advocate advises consumers to contact their local utility. Chesapeake Utilities and Delmarva Power provide energy-saving tips on their websites.

If you need assistance

Low-income Delawareans who are in need of financial assistance to meet their home energy costs may be eligible for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a program administered jointly by the Delaware Division of State Service Centers and Catholic Charities, Inc. 

From Oct. 1 through March 31, eligible households can apply to receive grants to help pay for fuel assistance for home heating, including electricity, natural gas, kerosene, propane, coal, or wood. Grants are made to both homeowners and renters. 

Additionally, there is crisis assistance funding available to help households in crisis during the winter months. Income eligibility for LIHEAP is defined as 200% of the federal poverty level. For more information on LIHEAP or to apply, click here.

If you have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Catholic Charities may have Utility Bill Relief Funding available for utility and fuel bill payments. Potential clients should contact Catholic Charities for more information. This funding was made available through Energize Delaware.

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