Price of natural gas causes spike in home gas, electricity bills

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Many Western New Yorkers have been shocked when opening their electric bills this month.

Larger-than-expected bills have been arriving from the utilities, particularly National Grid and NYSEG, but the bulk of the price spikes are being caused by natural gas. It’s now not only used to heat homes but generates most of the electricity used in your furnace, lights, and appliances.

Fred and Carol Tuttle in Ransomville couldn’t believe it when they got their latest bill from National Grid. They expected a spike with the long, cold winter we’ve had, but their $255 electric bill increased more than their propane bill, which heats their small mobile home.

“[The] electric bill went up 50 percent, and propane is up 33 percent. Propane was $209, and it went to $309,” Fred said.

The Tuttles thought the increase was orchestrated by National Grid, but the price spike was actually caused by the cost National Grid pays for the electricity. And though many believe electricity in WNY comes from the Niagara Power Project, in fact, most is generated by plants powered by natural gas.

There are two parts to your electric bill: the delivery charge and supply services. The supply portion of the Tuttles’ bill, which covers the cost of electricity to National Grid, was almost three times the amount National Grid charged to deliver it. Utilities such as National Grid are forbidden by law from marking up the cost of what they charge to deliver electricity to homes.

Utility experts point out, since most of our electricity in Western New York comes from natural gas-fired generators, the heavy demand on gas supplies has caused spikes in heating costs and electricity, especially in the North.

Jon Gibson of Bluerock Energy said, “The nation as a whole consumed a lot of natural gas this winter, that they otherwise would not have in the previous two winters, that did not get to the Northeast.”

Forecasters are calling for a cool spring but natural gas prices are leveling off, which means bills should start to decrease and eventually come down to amounts residents are used to paying.

Consumers do have a choice when it comes to the supply portion of their electric bill. The utility will have a list of approved energy marketers, such as Bluerock Energy, on its website, but consumers are urged to be careful. A switch to an energy marketer could save money or even increase your monthly energy bill.

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