National Grid bills are up 10-12 percent

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 February 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – The moon looms over a tree at Mount Albion Cemetery on Tuesday night, when temperatures plunged below zero.

National Grid customers are paying about 10 to 12 percent more for electricity this winter, the company said. The prolonged cold spells have customers using more power for furnaces, which are clicking on more often and running longer than in a normal winter.

“Customers are seeing higher delivery bills caused not by a change in rate, but by substantially higher usage,” said Steve Brady, National Grid spokesman. “And, the energy they are using is more expensive than prior months and this time last year because of commodity market conditions.”

The National Grid bill includes delivery and supply of the electricity. National Grid delivers the power and maintains the network. The company purchases the energy from several sources, some in long-term contracts and others in spot market purchases.

The supply costs have jumped. The village of Holley, which operates a municipal electric department, has warned residents they will be facing a huge increase in bills, about 2.5 times the average bill in a typical winter. That’s because the supply of electricity has jumped due to the demands of a brutally cold winter, village officials said.

National Grid anticipated a big spike in costs this month, and sought to defer collecting that increase until later in the year. The Public Service Commission approved that proposal from National Grid, which will spare customers a bigger jolt in their bills.

The cost of energy in recent years had been trending below average for costs, Brady said.

“In New York, like much of the Northeast, the price of electricity is affected by the price of natural gas because so much of the generation is fueled by gas,” he said. “Demand for gas is running very high and, when demand is high, prices tend to be higher.”

With the commodity prices expected to spike dramatically in February, National Grid sought to prevent “sticker shock” for its customers with the delay in collecting the increase in costs, Brady said. The company expects to collect that increase in late spring and summer when prices and demand are expected to stabilize.

The company is deferring about $30 to $32 million for its 1.6 million electric customers in upstate New York, Brady said.

Customers can help reduce their energy usage by lowering their thermostats by a few degrees and wearing a sweater inside, he said.

“Investing in more efficient appliances and lighting potentially has the next biggest impact,” Brady said. “The old saying is that the least expensive kilowatt is the one that doesn’t get used, so any means to simply reduce usage will help the bill.”