Higher natural gas bills coming this winter

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Businesses and consumers are facing higher natural gas bills this winter.

Natural gas prices have spiked in the past six months and are up more than 30 percent since the end of August. This is largely due to increased U.S. demand and the ongoing energy crisis in Europe, which often depends on supplies from Russia.

The spike also comes  after some businesses and residential  consumers switched over to the fuel after a long period of lower prices.

According to the Energy Information Administration, about 43 percent of Delaware households rely on natural gas for home heating. The remainder uses fuel oil and propane, which have also gone up in price.

Those using electricity for heat mainly via heat pumps,  will see the impact in future wholesale electricity increases that will be passed along.

“Due to the increase in wholesale natural gas prices, end-use customers will see an increase during the winter months,” said Delaware Public Advocate Andrew Slater. “However, there are ways to reduce your usage and keep utility bills reasonable. Energy utility bills are some of the only bills where the amount owed is dependent on usage.”

Chesapeake Utilities recently filed changes to its Gas Sales Rate (GSR), a passthrough cost to customers, to reflect the higher natural gas prices. According to its filing in Public Service Commission,  an average Residential Service 2 (RS-2) customer “using 700 CCF per year will experience an annual increase of approximately 6.03% or $62.30.”

Delmarva Power’s application also reflected an increase in costs for residential customers. According to its filing, “a typical residential customer using 83 CCF in a winter month would be an increase of $5.64 or 6.1%.” Both rates will become effective, November 1, subject to refund, while the rates are reviewed by the Division of the Public Advocate and Public Service Commission Staff.

Energy savings tips include turning your thermostat down a few degrees, replacing dirty furnace filters, weather-stripping doors and windows, and opening shades on sunny days.

Businesses and consumers can contact Energize Delaware and learn more about its programs.

Low-income Delawareans who need financial assistance to meet their home energy costs may be eligible for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a program administered jointly by the Delaware Division of State Service Centers (DSCC) and Catholic Charities, Inc. Beginning October 1st through March 31st, eligible households can apply to receive grants to help pay for fuel assistance for home heating, which includes electricity, natural gas, kerosene, propane, coal, or wood. Grants are made to both homeowners and renters.

Additionally, there is crisis assistance funding available to help households in crisis during the winter months. Income eligibility for LIHEAP is defined as 200% of the federal poverty level. For more information on LIHEAP or to apply, click here.

If you have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, Catholic Charities may have Utility Bill Relief Funding available for utility and fuel bill payments. Potential clients should contact Catholic Charities for more information. This funding was made available through Energize Delaware.

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