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PSC: Utilities prepared to meet consumer demand for electricity and natural gas during winter


Fri, Oct 14th 2022 02:40 pm

State utility regulator will ensure appropriate customer winter outreach occurs, including information on available home heating assistance to New Yorkers in need

√ PSC will closely monitor natural gas supply throughout winter heating season 

√ Energy prices expected to be higher this winter due to continued global price volatility

Submitted by the New York State Public Service Commission

The New York State Public Service Commission announced it expects the state’s utilities will have adequate supplies of natural gas and electricity on hand to meet the demands of residential and commercial customers in New York state. Meanwhile, the global commodity costs of natural gas, heating oil, and propane have continued to rise, resulting in utility and heating cost increases, along with additional increases in oil, gas and electricity prices.

“We will continue to closely monitor the utilities serving New York state to make sure they have adequate sources and supplies of electricity and natural gas to meet expected customer demands this winter,” said Commission Chair Rory M. Christian. “The utilities have hedged approximately 70% of their estimated statewide full service electric residential energy needs to mitigate the electric market price swings that could occur this winter.”

Customer Outreach: The Department of Public Service has a proactive program in place to help customers receive the information and assistance they need. The outreach and education efforts include publications in multiple languages about billing and payment options, financial assistance programs and winter preparedness measures to help with winter bills, and the steps to take if customers are faced with heating-related energy emergencies.

Electric and Natural Gas Price Forecast: This winter’s electricity and gas bills are expected to be higher than last year due to higher electric and gas commodity prices. On average, a residential electric customer using 600 kWh per month is expected to pay about $75 per month for supply this winter, up 42% from the same period a year ago, but the actual amount varies by utility. Meanwhile, the average residential customer using 732 therms of natural gas can expect to pay an estimated $240 per month during the winter heating season (November through March), up 29% from the same period a year ago, but note that the actual amount will vary widely by region due to the weather. A colder-than-normal winter will cause usage and bills to increase. Note that the state’s investor-owned utilities take steps to reduce the volatility of electric and gas supply prices to their full-service residential customers. Between financial hedges and gas held in storage, gas utilities have hedged approximately 53% of their estimated statewide customer needs. However, customers are not completely shielded from global market price volatility.

Winter Heating Preparedness: Staff continues to track weather impacts, pipeline and storage assets, and interruptible customer compliance, and will also work with the local distribution companies (LDCs) and communities to find innovative solutions that increase environmental benefits, while meeting customer expectations for their energy demands. This work includes the aggressive pursuit of efficiency measures, demand response and other solutions to meet growing space and water heating needs. The LDCs serving New York state are finalizing contracting for adequate natural gas supply, delivery capacity and storage inventory to satisfy firm customer demands under peak winter conditions. The department will also continue to closely monitor areas of the state where demand is growing at a faster pace. The ongoing gas planning proceeding will modernize the long-term planning process used by the gas utilities and require them to file long-term plans that include energy efficiency, demand response programs and other programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s natural gas system and implement uniform moratoria procedures. The new planning processes will also allow for extensive stakeholder input. Department staff continues to coordinate with oil industry representatives and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to ensure that customers have access to adequate supplies of winter heating fuels. In keeping with the commission’s reliability requirements, natural gas companies are auditing systems, processes and procedures, as well as scheduling tests to ensure that interruptible customers comply with the commission's alternate fuel requirements.

Electric System Preparedness: There is sufficient capability to meet electric demand for the winter. As part of the winter assessment, the major electric generating facility owners in southeast New York that own about 12,000 MW of dual fuel generation capability were contacted. Staff found that these owners are continuing to implement lessons learned from the polar vortex winter of 2013-14, including having increased pre-winter on-site fuel reserves, having firm contracts with fuel oil suppliers, conducting more aggressive replenishment plans, and having more proactive pre-winter maintenance and facilities preparations.

Home Heating Assistance: On Sept. 22, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced new state actions to prepare New Yorkers for rising global energy costs and supply issues expected this winter. At Hochul's direction, Christian sent letters to chief executive officers of New York state's largest utility companies, urging the implementation of measures to mitigate the anticipated extreme commodity price increases over the winter and enhanced customer communications. The governor also directed state agencies to convene fuel providers across the state to ensure adequate heating fuels are available this winter. New Yorkers can also take advantage of cost-efficient programs in anticipation of the winter to adopt energy efficiency and electrification solutions for homes and businesses. As energy prices rise during the winter months, New Yorkers can take the following steps to protect against higher energy costs:

√ Apply for HEAP. Beginning Nov. 1, applications will be accepted for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which can provide up to $976 to eligible homeowners and renters depending on income, household size and how they heat their home. To qualify for heating assistance from HEAP, a family of four must have a maximum gross monthly income of $5,485, or an annual gross income of $65,829.

√ Take immediate action to be more energy efficient. NYSERDA offers energy-saving tips for residents and homeowners, as well as businesses that can lower energy usage. NYSERDA also offers a range of home energy efficiency programs that can help save energy and reduce costs over time. Income-eligible customers may qualify for reduced cost or free energy upgrades to their homes through EmPower New York and Assisted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR programs. Homeowners should also check with their local gas and electric utility companies to access discounted products and services that can help them lower their energy costs all year long.

√ Receive a customized list of energy-related assistance in the state. New York Energy Advisor can help income-eligible New Yorkers locate programs that help them spend less on energy and create healthier and more comfortable spaces. With the New York Energy Advisor, consumers answer simple questions and get connected with energy-saving offers in New York state. Sponsored by NYSERDA and utilities, qualified New Yorkers can get help paying utility bills, receive special offers on heating assistance, and more.

√ Sign up for Community Solar. Community Solar allows New Yorkers, including renters, co-op and condo owners, and businesses to save money every month on their electric bills. Consumers can subscribe to a Community Solar project (where available) and start receiving credits on their electric bill for the clean energy produced by a solar farm.

√ Get a free energy audit. Homeowners across New York are eligible for a free home energy assessment through NYSERDA's Residential Energy Audit Program. Home energy assessments are available both in-person and using remote technologies. Trained and qualified contractors who provide energy assessment services can help homeowners decide which energy improvements are worth investing in, install the improvements, and assist in connecting homeowners with NYSERDA's low-interest financing programs.

√ Reduce your business or building's energy costs. Community Energy Advisors across New York state can help residents, businesses and multifamily building owners reduce their energy use and costs.

√ Join a clean heating and cooling campaign. Participating in a campaign eases the process of replacing a community member's current heating or cooling system with clean heating or cooling technology by connecting members with prequalified contractors and outlining potential incentives, tax breaks, financing and payment options. Experienced contractors can give a home or business owner a holistic assessment to determine if their home or business space will also benefit from weatherproofing upgrades that can further increase comfort and reduce energy bills.

√ Know your rights and protections. The New York State Home Energy Fair Practices Act has comprehensive protections for residential customers regarding their utility services. These rights include the option to pay bills in installments, a cap on late fees, sufficient notice prior to shut-off of services, and protections for those on a fixed income or with medical conditions.

√ Consider bill payment options. When getting in touch with your utility provider, inquire about billing options that allow for deferred payments or "budget billing" options that balance out bills that are higher in one season and lower in another. This can structure your payments and make it easier to navigate costs.

√ Better understand the energy management of your building. Put Energy to Work provides a deeper understanding of tools and programs for businesses that help in energy management for commercial and industrial buildings, and includes resources that can increase profitability, create a competitive advantage, and achieve greater resiliency.

This report may be obtained by going to the “Commission Documents” section of the commission’s website at www.dps.ny.gov and entering case No. 22-M-0247 in the input box labeled "Search for case/matter number. Commission documents may also be obtained from the commission’s files office, 14th floor, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223 (518-474-2500).

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