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National Grid predicts drop in winter heating costs

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Homeowners worried about winter heating costs for natural gas might be able to breathe a sigh of relief, although prices for kerosene and fuel oil have climbed.

Because of the low price of natural gas, National Grid has forecast the average household in Northern New York will save about $21 during the five-month heating season from November to March — 3 percent below last year’s average cost. That estimate is based on the average heating use of 711 therms during the five-month season, resulting in a total bill of $644, the company said in a released statement.

“This year’s forecast is the lowest it has been in more than eight years, when 711 therms of usage would have resulted in a bill of nearly $775,” said Melanie Littlejohn, director of customer and community management, in a prepared statement. “We work hard to help customers manage their energy usage and bills, and lower commodity prices are a great way to start.”

National Grid purchases natural gas in wholesale markets and charges customers those costs. Customers’ heating bills are calculated by the energy provider using two components: the supply of natural gas and the cost of delivering energy to customers. The latter includes National Grid’s cost to maintain the gas network, provide emergency responses and offer customer service.

This winter, the delivery price per unit seen on customers’ bills will remain the same.

Despite the optimistic outlook for natural gas, however, unusual weather conditions can substantially affect market and use prices for customer supply, Ms. Littlejohn said. Warm weather last winter, for example, dropped the average user’s heating use much lower than normal.

Homeowners who use kerosene and fuel oil, though, may see higher costs compared with last season, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The price for kerosene in the north country’s eight-county region on Monday increased about 4 percent compared with the same time last year, from $3.97 to $4.12 per gallon. Fuel oil climbed about 6 percent over the same time period, from $3.69 to $3.99 per gallon.

The market price for propane gas is down compared with last year. The cost of propane sold in the eight-county north country region on Monday was $2.99 per gallon, down 10 percent from last year’s $3.32 in October.

Visit www.nyserda.ny.gov and click on the “Energy, Data, Planning and Policy” link for energy prices.

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