Home heating costs impacted by severe cold temperatures

Feb 07, 2018

A MESSAGE TO OUR CUSTOMERS from Steve Bryant, President

Recently, our region experienced a cold spell resulting in temperatures far below normal in late December and early January. While current temperatures seem to have returned to seasonable levels, there is still plenty of winter weather in the forecast. A few facts from the cold snap:

  • Compared to the same period last year (December 25, 2016 to January 8, 2017), the temperatures were 56% colder this year.
  • The temperatures during the last week of December 2017 were 55% colder than normal.  
  • The cold snap continued through the first eight days of January when temperatures registered 42% colder than normal

You may have expected your gas bill to be higher as you increased usage to keep your family and home warm. An additional, unexpected impact reflected in your bill for the next three months is the significant increase in the cost of natural gas we purchased from our suppliers in order to guarantee uninterrupted service through the cold snap and beyond.

Impact on your bill
Customers can expect to see an average increase of $52 per month from February through April. If you are not currently enrolled in a Budget Plan, it may be a good time to enroll. Customers on the Budget Plan will not see a change to their bills until after the winter season when budget payment plans are reviewed and necessary adjustments are made.

How gas costs are established
Your natural gas costs are calculated before winter based on expectations of natural gas supply prices and normal temperatures. When you receive your bill you have already consumed the gas for the period reflected on your bill. At the time, you are consuming natural gas, we are securing and paying for the gas needed to meet customer demand with uninterrupted service.

If temperatures and prices from suppliers change, the difference in cost – whether increased or decreased – impacts your bill after the gas is consumed. Columbia Gas is a regulated utility with mandated pricing guidelines requiring that the cost we pay to suppliers is directly passed through to our customers – with no markup or profit to the company.

Record lows in New England
Cold snaps occur in New England, which result in price increases. However, the price impacts experienced during this most recent cold snap were unprecedented. A driving force behind the price increases from our suppliers is the growing demand for natural gas and the current scarcity of interstate pipeline supply to meet the demand. The higher prices triggered during the cold snap can reasonably be expected to impact prices of gas coming into New England through the rest of the winter.

There's no guarantee temperatures will stay normal for the rest of the winter, so we ask that you to use energy efficiently and take advantage of our programs to help you manage your monthly bills.

Budget Plan
Our Budget Plan evens out seasonal highs and lows by dividing your yearly energy use into 12 equal monthly payments. Enroll today.

Payment Assistance 

  • Research your options online
  • Call us at 1-800-688-6160 for information about fuel assistance programs offered through federal state and local agencies.

Energy Efficiency 
Conserving energy matters and we offer a number of energy efficiency programs that begin with a free home energy audit. We encourage our customers to conserve energy by taking the following steps to stay warm during lower than normal winter temperatures. 

  • Set thermostats back five degrees while sleeping or away from home for eight hours or more or install an automatic setback thermostat. The amount of energy used may be reduced by as much as 8% -10 %. 
  • Turn your water heater temperature down to 120 degrees F. 
  • Check for open fireplace dampers. 
  • Keep doors on attached garages closed. 
  • When replacing appliances look for the Energy Star label.

For additional information, visit our Take Control page.

We understand higher bills are not good news for anyone, particularly our customers who are struggling to make ends meet. That is why we are working diligently to develop solutions to the pipeline capacity constraints, so our customers will not be subjected to price uncertainty in future years.

Thank you for being a customer of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts.

Steve Bryant, President