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February 15, 2014

Cold, high demand boost power bills

Electricity bills are causing sticker shock, utility officials said, and another jolt is expected soon with this month’s charges.

Cold weather, prompting more energy use and higher demand for natural gas, has resulted in higher bills for electricity, utility officials said this week.

Rebecca Lloyd, vice president of Oneonta Block Co. in Oneonta, said several business representatives are stunned to see their most recent electricity bills up about 150 percent. The family-owned business operates several ventures, she said, without providing specifics on bill amounts.

“I don’t know that there is anything we can do about it,” Lloyd said. She expressed concern about the difference between commercial and residential rates and a need for the community to be informed about what is happening with energy resources.

“We have no energy policy in this country that is going to help alleviate the lack of supply,” Lloyd said.

In recent months, demand for electricity and natural gas, which is used to generate electricity as well as to provide heat, has been unprecedented because of extremely cold winter, according to the state Public Service Commission. While the PSC regulates and sets delivery rates, supply or commodity rates fluctuate based on supply and demand in the market.

“The unusually cold weather that has gripped the region has caused energy supply prices to surge in New York state and throughout the Northeast,” said Audrey Zibelman, PSC chairwoman, said in a Jan. 29 media release.

In early January, widespread, record-breaking cold weather had significant effects across almost all segments of the natural gas market, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration of the federal Department of Energy, and the frigid temperatures led to record highs in demand, storage withdrawals and prices.

Last month, in anticipation of a spike this month, the PSC authorized National Grid to provide its customers with a temporary credit to offset an unprecedented rise in electric supply costs. Without such action, some residential customers, using 600 kilowatt-hours per month, would have seen increases between 17.6 percent and 27.2 percent, the release said, and the PSC prediction for small commercial customers, using 1,500 kwh per month, were increases between 17.9 percent and 27.6 percent.

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