30% decrease predicted for 2023-24 winter heating season
Submitted by National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp.
A year can make all the difference, according to the recent winter heating forecast released by National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp. Natural gas customers should expect some relief is in store from last year’s elevated energy costs.
Based on the seasonal projection for an average residential customer’s home heating bill during the months of November through March, officials at National Fuel anticipate that customers will see a 30% decrease from last winter. The utility estimates that the average residential customer will pay $572, or $114 a month, to heat their home this upcoming winter. Last winter, total heating bills hovered on average at $816, or $163 per month. The projected decrease is driven in large part by lower natural gas commodity prices offset slightly by the expectation that the average customer will use more gas this winter if temperatures resemble the 15-year historic average.
Natural gas prices have declined significantly since last winter. Nearly half of the natural gas that customers will use this winter has already been purchased and placed into storage during the summer months when prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange (“NYMEX”) ranged from $1.99 to $2.76 per MMBtu, which is about half the cost of gas purchased and placed into storage last summer. Gas held in storage helps to ensure reliability throughout the winter while providing an element of price certainty for customers.
Forecasted NYMEX natural gas pricing for the upcoming winter, when the remaining supplies will be purchased, is also approximately 50% lower than last year. The decline in commodity costs reflects the market's return to a more-normal and less-volatile pricing environment, which was disrupted last year by a number of economic shocks, including the conflict in Ukraine and lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, that impacted supply and demand.
While Western New York’s winter last year was extreme at points with two major blizzards in November and December, when reviewing the winter as a whole, temperatures were consistently above average with the entire season finishing 11.4% warmer than normal. And the reliability of National Fuel’s natural gas delivery system held strong during the extreme conditions including the five-day Christmas blizzard and its aftermath, as only 13 total outages occurred. Customers without power relied on natural gas equipment to maintain adequate levels of warmth through utilizing natural gas fireplaces, hot water tanks, natural gas stoves and back-up natural gas generators.
“Two major variables impact home heating bills and the primary reasons they increase: the cost of natural gas and the amount of natural gas used by the customer” said Karen L. Merkel, spokesperson for National Fuel. “As National Fuel doesn’t set the cost of the gas we purchase, the amount we pay is what the customer pays. Natural gas supply costs are passed along to customers without mark-up or profit to National Fuel. Approximately 60% of each customer bill is the natural gas supply cost and applicable taxes, with the remaining 40% of the bill being the delivery charge. And when compared to electricity, natural gas is currently less than one third the cost.”
Western New York customers have numerous payment assistance programs that can be tapped into to receive much-needed funds to pay their utility bill if they meet eligibility requirements. Based on the current levels of assistance provided, if a National Fuel customer were to qualify for all existing payment assistance, the minimum total of the aid is $1,400. Any customer needing assistance managing their energy bill should call National Fuel, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. through 6 p.m. by contacting 1-800-365-3234, or visit the utility’s website today at www.nationalfuel.com to get more information on the following programs:
•Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) – opening Nov. 1, this federally funded program provides significant help with energy bills with grants ranging from $400-$476 for basic, and additional $400 for emergency grants.
•NYS energy affordability program (statewide low-income program) – provides monthly bill discounts on gas delivery charges and is based on the amount of current HEAP grant received.
•Neighbor for Neighbor Heat Fund – $400 grants help customers meet basic energy needs with any of the following situations: disabled, have a certified medical emergency, at least 55 years old, recently unemployed or a veteran.
•Special Protections – safeguards exist for customers who live in households where all residents are 62 years or older, 18 years or younger or disabled.
•Deferred payment plans – special arrangements can be made for a repayment plan based on individual financial circumstances.
•Conservation incentive program (CIP) – provides rebates for installing high-efficiency appliances in your home.
•Sealed – in partnership with National Fuel, covers the upfront costs for upgrades that improve home energy efficiency through weatherization, climate control and more. National Fuel does recommend that customers use the budget plan for predictable, stable monthly payments by estimating usage over a 12-month period. This plan prevents seasonal billing swings and takes the guesswork out of planning for utility costs by allowing a customer to pay a set amount each month, and receive alerts anytime the set amount is scheduled to change.
Convenient payment options are available with AutoPay, having a bill automatically paid on the due date using a credit card or bank account; and Pay by Text, a one-time payment via the website to store the payment method and then responding via text to pay subsequent bills.
National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp. is the utility segment of National Fuel Gas Co., a diversified energy company that is engaged in a number of natural gas-related activities. The utility provides natural gas service to nearly 2 million residents in Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.nationalfuel.com.