By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — Utility prices are expected to rise again, for the second time in as many months.
In February, Central Hudson warned customers to expect higher electricity and natural gas prices due to a variety of factors. On March 1, the company issued a second statement saying prices will go even higher and can expect to remain that way for much of 2022.
Higher rates are caused by strong demand for energy worldwide and global events, particularly the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
“A confluence of increased economic activity, constrained energy supplies, weather and global factors continue to affect energy prices,” Charles Freni, president and CEO of Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, said in a statement March 1. “This has impacted the prices of electricity and natural gas that Central Hudson delivers to our customers.”
On Feb. 10, the company announced higher bills should be expected due to an increase in supply prices due to a colder than average winter and global energy prices.
The situation only appears to have been exacerbated.
“For March, the supply price for natural gas is rising 24% as compared to February due to global and domestic factors,” according to Central Hudson. “Lower average residential gas usage in March may offset some of this cost increase for individual bills, as usage in March historically tends to be lower than in February.”
But the impact on individual customers’ bills will vary depending on the weather, their energy usage and the billing cycle, according to the company.
Electricity rates will be variable and are dependent on a number of factors including changing market prices, weather, individual usage and the billing cycle.
Prices for other forms of energy have also been affected, according to the company. Heating oil and gasoline prices are also about 40% higher than one year ago.
“Higher energy costs harm our customers and the communities we serve,” Freni said. “The energy resources produced in the United States now supply both domestic and international needs. We must ensure that state and federal policies allow for the expansion of critical energy infrastructure of all types to ensure robust and diverse energy supplies at stable prices, particularly as we transition to lower carbon resources.”
Rising utility prices were discussed at the Feb. 21 meeting of the Greenville Town Council after the board was notified of the first hike in prices by Central Hudson.
“There are big increases in natural gas and electric bills for the remainder of the winter, possibly the rest of the year given that the oil prices and natural gas prices and propane prices are through the roof,” Town Supervisor Paul Macko said. “With the goings-on by Russia and Ukraine, I think it is going to go up further.”
With the hike in prices, Town Councilman Joel Rauf suggested the town issue a memo to town employees asking them to be cautious in their energy usage.
“I would suggest the board produce a small memo for all town employees to be conscientious of unnecessary idle times, check thermostats, maybe turn down the lights to be energy conscious in an effort to stop the rising energy costs that this town is going to face,” Rauf said.
The resolution was adopted unanimously.
Gov. Kathy Hochul on March 1 announced that the state’s Public Service Commission is requiring New York’s major electric and gas utilities to increase their outreach and education efforts to notify customers of the impact on utility bills.
“The extreme utility bill increases all of us are seeing are having a serious impact on our household budgets, and in response we are taking action,” Hochul said. “I have directed the Department of Public Service to ensure all the major electric and gas utilities in the state work with customers, and in particular, our most vulnerable residents to protect them from volatile pricing and educate them about resources available to them.”
There are also state programs to assist New Yorkers with paying their utility bills, such as the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, which can provide up to $751 to eligible homeowners and renters depending on income, household size and how they heat their home, according to the governor’s office.
There is also $250 million in additional federal funding to help low-income New York households that are behind on their utility bills, Hochul said.