By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
Electricity and natural gas rates are rising, and so will customers’ utility bills, according to Central Hudson.
The company announced customers can expect to see higher bills due to an increase in supply prices for both electricity and natural gas due to a colder than average winter and global energy prices.
Central Hudson customers can expect to see an increase of about 19% for natural gas and roughly 46% for electric bills, according to the company. Customers with a combination electric and natural gas bill can expect a 29% jump in their bill.
“Locally, this January featured sustained temperatures that were 11% colder than average and 16% colder than January 2021,” Anthony Campagiorni, senior vice president of Customer Services and Gas Operations at Central Hudson, said. “This contributed to driving gas usage up more than 13% and electric usage up nearly 6% over January 2021.”
Colder temperatures that led to increased demand, limited natural gas supply and increased global and domestic demand for electricity and natural gas contributed to the rate hike. There is also increased reliance on natural gas after the closure of Indian Point, a nuclear power plant that closed April 30, 2021, and stopped generating electricity.
“The increased usage, coupled with international and domestic factors, has caused the market price of natural gas and electricity to rise here in our region and around the world,” Campagiorni said. “Natural gas has become a global commodity that not only heats our homes but is also heavily relied upon to produce electricity on demand and whenever needed.”
The increase in customers’ bills is expected to be temporary and may vary depending on energy usage and the billing cycle, according to the company. For some, the increase may be spread out between the current bill and the next month’s bill.
Gov. Kathy Hochul acknowledged the statewide rising utility bills Feb. 11 and said the hikes come at a particularly bad time for New Yorkers.
“The extreme utility bill increases we are seeing across the state come at a time when New Yorkers are already struggling financially following the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hochul said.
She said the rate hikes were predicted and are due to “severe winter weather” and supply issues.
Central Hudson advised customers find ways to cut their energy costs by implementing energy efficiency measures such as insulating ducts and hot water pipes that run through uninsulated areas, repairing leaky ducts, adding insulation, lowering the thermostat, and sealing air leaks with weather stripping and caulk to reduce their use of heating fuels.
Customers can also enroll in Central Hudson’s Budget Billing program to pay their average annual energy bill in 11 even monthly payments to spread out monthly expenses. The year’s 12th payment would be adjusted up or down to reflect actual energy usage and fluctuations in market prices, according to the company.
“This program makes energy bills more predictable and can help in managing household budgets,” according to the company.
Income-qualified customers can also request payment assistance options or federal grants through the Home Energy Assistant Program, or HEAP, or the new Regular Arrears Supplement Program to make paying energy bills more affordable.