Dramatic rise for heat bills expected this winter


The Hutchinson News

The Hutchinson News

A federal energy agency is predicting winter heating costs will rise dramatically this year, but mostly because a colder winter is expected.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast those using natural gas for heating will see an average 15 percent hike in heating bills for the period Oct. 1 through March 31, 2013, compared to the same period last year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has projected "heating degree days" this winter — a measurement of the demand for energy needed to heat a building — while 2 percent warmer than the 30-year average, will still be 20 percent to 27 percent colder than last winter.

The EIA projects that natural gas prices will also rise about 1 percent this winter, while electricity prices should drop about 2 percent and propane prices about 4 percent.

Based on the colder temperatures, however, the EIA projects household expenditures for electricity should be 5 percent higher and for propane, 13 percent higher.

The agency estimated natural gas working inventories at the end of September at 3.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), about 8 percent above the same time last year. The EIA expects the natural gas spot price, which averaged $4 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2011, to average $2.71 per MMBtu in 2012 and $3.35 per MMBtu in 2013.

One positive in the report is that the EIA expects gasoline prices will fall from the recent peak, with regular gasoline prices this winter averaging only about 4 cents per gallon higher than last winter.

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