Throughout the last few weeks there have been countless independent reports and headlines forecasting high home energy prices this winter. That has families and businesses across New York worried.
How high could prices get this winter?
Heating and electric customers in Upstate New York could see an increase of nearly 40% in total home energy costs this winter, according to New York Independent System Operator.
The report cites a host of factors including COVID-19, inflation, and the Ukraine conflict. Check out the report here.
As far as prices are concerned, the report says it could translate to around $50 more per month for customers of NYSEG or RG&E.
RELATED: Energy companies say price hikes are necessary
What can Congress do about it?
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is calling for emergency funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
That’s the federal program that assists millions of Americans heat their homes in the winter.
She wants Congress to provide additional funding to ensure that families can, in fact, heat their homes this winter.
The price increases expected will hit low income families the hardest in New York and across the U.S.
“LIHEAP provides a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of low-income New Yorkers,” Gillibrand said. “As winter approaches and the cost of groceries and other essentials remains high, our families simply cannot afford to pay exorbitant heating bills. We have to do everything in our power to ensure that New Yorkers have what they need to stay safe and warm throughout the coming months and I urge Congress to provide this additional funding to LIHEAP immediately.”
At this point, there isn’t anything Congress has considered that would have a meaningful impact on the energy market overall.
What can New York State do about it?
New York State Public Service Commission Chair Rory Christian has sent letters to CEO’s of the state’s largest utility companies urging them to initiate measures that would mitigate extreme price increase.
Governor Kathy Hochul has directed state agencies to convene fuel providers across New York to ensure adequate volumes of heating fuel are available all winter.
“Just like the heat waves experienced earlier this summer, New Yorkers should be fully prepared this winter for rising global energy costs as temperatures drop and it takes more energy to heat their homes,” Governor Hochul said in a statement this week. “My administration is working closely with partners across the state to make sure New Yorkers have access to assistance and programs that help manage these rising costs while keeping their homes warm during the colder months.”
The state is requiring that utility companies take a number of steps to enhance reliability during the winter months.
Here’s what the state is asking of National Grid, NYSEG, and others:
- Enhanced Communications: Utilities will immediately send letters to dual-fueled commercial customers, including interruptible customers, to advise them to fill their alternate fuel tanks now.
- Fuel Storage Inspections: Utilities will inspect the alternate fuel tanks of all dual-fuel customers where human needs are served (e.g. New York City Housing Authority housing, homeless shelters, schools, hospitals, etc.) by November 1 to ensure they have adequate supply on hand (full tanks or the equivalent of five days of supply) before the winter heating season begins.
- Alternative Supply Review: Utilities will review utility emergency plans to address alternate fuel supply disruptions during peak gas demand. If dual fuel customers cannot be served with natural gas and are unable to replenish alternate fuel supplies, the utility should be prepared to work with local and state government agencies to protect public health and safety when temperatures drop below 20 degrees. The plan should include the roles and responsibilities for setting up warming centers, providing hot meals, establishing lists of master plumbers in case pipes freeze in unheated buildings, and identify the company and other resources that might be needed.
- Enhanced Coordination: In the event of an oil supply disruption, electric generators may have more difficulty procuring No. 2 Oil than home heating customers. Utilities are required to continue to have strong coordination with the New York Independent System Operator and major power generators to encourage the dual-fuel operators to fill tanks in advance of the winter heating season.
What steps can be taken for those families who are concerned about higher bills this winter?
- Apply for HEAP. Apply for HEAP. Beginning November 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 managers 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. Find more information on how to sign up for a Community Solar project here.
- 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 pre-qualified 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. Visit NYSERDA to see if your community is participating in a Clean Heating and Cooling Campaign.
- 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. Learn about these from the Department of Public Service at AskPSC.
- 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.
Josh is the president and publisher of FingerLakes1.com. Have a question? Send them to [email protected].