Sharon Scott-Chandler, chief executive of Action for Boston Community Development, said she is particularly concerned about how rising food prices, in addition to bills, will affect the people her social services agency helps.
“It’s all at once,” said Scott-Chandler. “This year really weighs even more on families.”
In the case of National Grid, the utility filed its new Massachusetts electricity tariffs to the State Department of Utilities on Wednesday and the outlook is not good: a typical residential electric customer’s monthly bill will rise from $ 179 last winter to $ 293 this winter, for the six months starting Nov. 1 – a 64% increase over the same period a year ago.
Blame the natural gas wholesale market. Despite efforts to shift New England to renewable energy sources, natural gas-fired power plants still provide at least half of the region’s electricity. The costs of obtaining gas have skyrocketed following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting shortage of natural gas in Europe. As a regulated utility, National Grid passes the cost of the electricity it has purchased to customers at no charge. This winter, the electricity supply share will account for about two-thirds of National Grid’s electricity bill.
“We are competing with Europe in a way we have never done before,” said Paul Flemming, CEO of ESAI Power, an energy research and consulting firm.
Richard Levitan, president of the energy consulting firm Levitan & Associates, said the disruption of the pipeline from Russia to Europe has increased demand for liquefied natural gas that can be shipped overseas. Additionally, Levitan said, the New England pipeline’s limited capacity drives up electricity prices as power plants take a back seat to customers who use natural gas for heating in the winter.
“National Grid has done nothing wrong,” Levitan said. “They are just going through the inevitable costs. [But] do we hear it more than other parts of the country? I think the answer is probably yes. “
Helen Burt, National Grid’s chief customer officer, said the utility procured electricity supplies for the coming winter in two tranches: a series of purchases took place in the spring, just as wholesale gas prices were rolling. starting to rise due to the conflict in Ukraine; the other purchase took place earlier this month after wholesale prices had increased further.
To help customers, National Grid has launched what it calls the “winter savings initiative for customers,” an effort to highlight various energy saving programs, flexible payments to distribute expenses and discounted rates for low-income customers.
Attorney General Maura Healey’s office released a statement saying the National Grid rise will be “devastating to hundreds of thousands of customers in Massachusetts who simply can’t afford it.” Healey’s staff plan to meet with public services, state regulators, and advocacy groups to address the issue.
Burt said about half of National Grid’s 1.35 million Massachusetts electric customers, some 667,000 accounts, still get basic service, which means they rely on National Grid to source their electricity supplies instead of buying. a competitive supplier. Many other households will not pay for this specific increase because in recent years they have switched to competitive suppliers in a trend of municipal aggregation, where cities and towns make large purchases of energy on behalf of residents, usually to support more renewable electricity.
National Grid, which has approximately 960,000 natural gas accounts in Massachusetts, also applied to the state DPU last week for the new natural gas heating tariffs. Typical residential customers should expect a 22 to 24 percent increase from last winter’s bills, or another $ 50 per month. Such increases will be less severe than electricity bills because National Grid uses a hedging strategy to buy natural gas over time, and a significant amount of gas was purchased prior to the start of the war in Ukraine.
Many Eversource gas customers may see even greater increases: The company said typical residential accounts in the former NStar Gas territory will see a 34 percent increase from last winter, or about $ 78, on monthly gas bills starting since November, while those in the first Columbia Gas Territory faces a 25% increase, or $ 61 per month.
It is not yet clear what Eversource’s new electricity tariffs will be; the utility plans to archive them for the tariff season from January to June to mid-November. However, Eversource recently reported a huge hike for its New Hampshire electric customers that went into effect in August, where the supply portion of bills more than doubled, reflecting the sharp rise in natural gas prices.
Cynthia Arcate, former CEO of nonprofit electricity buyer PowerOptions, said she hopes electricity prices can stabilize once the LNG market becomes less volatile.
“I don’t know if you can say for sure that this is something we will live with for any length of time,” Arcate said. “It will just be a harsh winter.”
These dynamics are why Scott-Chandler’s group, ABCD, is pushing for the legislature to include $ 10 million for heating assistance in the state’s latest economic development bill, which hasn’t been passed before. that the formal sessions of the year end this summer. (Legislative leaders hope to pass some version of the bill by the end of the fall.) He said the ABCD is also pushing lawmakers for an additional $ 10 million to be included in an additional state budget.
Daphne Terry, a Dedham resident who works as a home health assistant and receives care from ABCD, fears Eversouce’s electricity bills this winter. She said she is already struggling to pay them.
“I’m playing catch up,” Terry said. “I feel like I’m drowning. . . because the bills are so high “.
Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.