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Natural gas customers can expect higher prices this fall and winter.

With temperatures having dropped enough for furnaces to kick on, natural gas customers can expect to see higher bills this heating season.
National Fuel has alerted Western New York customers to anticipate higher bills as natural gas commodity prices have risen significantly following “years of historic lows.” Customers may also see an increase in gas usage this winter season as initial weather reports indicate a return-to-normal cold and snowy winter.
National Grid has also indicated that Upstate New York customers can expect their gas bills to go up about 31% because of increased demand and a global spike in prices.
Across National Fuel’s Western New York service territory, approximately 90% of residents rely on natural gas to heat their homes and fuel their businesses. The estimated average residential customer’s winter heating bill — November through March — will total $714, a 43% increase compared to the last winter heating season.
National Fuel said the 2020-21 winter was approximately 10% warmer than normal.
“This expected increase is due to rising natural gas commodity prices and a return to what forecasters believe will be a more normal winter for Western New York, which will result in higher usage for the average customer,” National Fuel said in a press release earlier in October.
Market prices for natural gas supplies have increased significantly from the historic lows experienced in the winters of 2019-20 and 2020-21. New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) natural gas pricing for deliveries this upcoming winter recently topped $6 per MMBtu, more than doubling last winter when pricing averaged under $3 per MMBtu.
National Fuel said the rise — driven by several economic factors, including global demand for domestically produced liquefied natural gas, disruptions in domestic production, and lower-than-average national storage inventory levels — has caused an increase in the cost of natural gas purchased and placed in storage by utilities to meet customer needs.
As required by state regulations, the gas utilities are required to purchase sufficient quantities of reliable, least-cost natural gas supplies to meet customers’ demands during a colder-than-normal winter. Natural gas supply costs are passed along to customers dollar-for-dollar with no mark-up or profit, National Fuel said.
Despite the cost increase, National Fuel said customers still benefit from the proximity and access to abundant natural gas supplies produced in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
“Overall, cumulative winter heating costs remain lower than what customers experienced during the winters of 2005 through 2009 — $900 to $1,200 — before shale gas became widely available,” National Fuel said.
Jared Paventi, a National Grid spokesman, said in October that the forecast for increased prices came as natural gas contracts in Europe set new highs, rising almost 400% since the start of the year due to tighter supplies and increased demand.
“During the pandemic, overall energy demand and prices remained low,” Paventi said, “and now as the economy has risen and we begin to rebuild, demand has gone up.”
Due to expected higher bills, National Fuel reminds customers that financial assistance is available. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced in October a one-time Home Energy Assistance Program Regular Arrears Supplement (HEAP RAS) benefit to pay up to $10,000 in gas and/or electric arrears for low-income households in New York state that are in collections or otherwise facing disconnection or termination of service.
Administered through local Departments of Social Services, the HEAP RAS benefit will pay the entire current balance, including arrears. The HEAP RAS grant will be in addition to the HEAP Regular benefit (up to $426) presently available.
Emergency HEAP grants will be offered in January 2022 for up to $350. HEAP opened on Oct. 1, the earliest funding has been made available in decades.
National Fuel also offers its own assistance programs:
• The Neighbor For Neighbor Heat Fund offers grants up to $500 year-round. Qualified customers must be aged 55 years or older, disabled, currently receiving unemployment benefits, or are military veterans.
• Deferred Payment Agreement allows customers to negotiate a repayment plan based on individual financial circumstances.
• Special Protections is applicable for households where all residents are aged 62 years and up or are 18 years and younger, or are blind or disabled.
• The NYS Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) provides rent, utility, and home energy payment assistance for tenant households.
• Budget Plan billing allows winter payments to be spread out over the whole year, providing stable monthly bills.
For HEAP information in Allegany County, contact the county’s Department of Social Services at (585) 268-9622, Allegany County Office for the Aging at (585) 268-9390 or visit mybenefits.ny.gov.