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What winter months could mean for your natural gas bills
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Natural gas consumers should prepare for higher rates heading into the winter months. - photo by Jeff Gill

Heating your home with natural gas and other fuels could hit your wallet hard this winter.

The U.S. government has said heating bills could jump as much as 54% nationwide compared to last year.

The Georgia Public Service Commission’s online price comparison shows marketers’ filed rates for standard 12-month plans in October as ranging from 49 to 89 cents per therm, the common pricing on gas bills. In October 2020, rates ranged from 34 to 59 cents per therm.

The increases range from 43% to 51%.

Tricia Pridemore, chairwoman of the Georgia Public Service Commission, said the state has seen “this steady and drastic uptick” in rates this year.

“We’re seeing a real limitation in the amount of natural gas that’s in the system, and that’s why there’s an increase in prices,” she said.

Reasons vary on what’s causing the price spikes, including that energy companies aren't increasing supply nearly fast enough to match the jump in demand this year.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says energy price hikes are the latest reminder of the higher inflation rippling across the global economy. 

Regardless of reason, higher rates are sure to cause pain in the pocketbook.

“We are very concerned about the increase in gas prices that is occurring across the country,” said Carolyn Bermudez, president of Liberty Utilities, Georgia, which has an office in Gainesville. “This could cause a financial hardship for some of our customers.” 

Liberty said it expects its customers to see a 15-20% increase in total gas bills compared to last winter.

Nearly half the homes in the U.S. use natural gas for heat, and they could pay an average $746 this winter, 30% more than a year ago. Those in the Midwest could get particularly pinched, with bills up an estimated 49%, and this could be the most expensive winter for natural-gas heated homes since 2008-2009.

The second-most used heating source for homes is electricity, making up 41% of the country, and those households could see a more modest 6% increase to $1,268. Homes using heating oil, which make up 4% of the country, could see a 43% increase — more than $500 — to $1,734. The sharpest increases are likely for homes that use propane, which account for 5% of U.S. households.

There is help for consumers stressed financially by the increases.

Liberty offers payment arrangements for those with past due balances, “and this can spread out the amount due over a period of time,” Bermudez said.

Georgia PSC also offers utility assistance programs.

Consumers “may allow deferred payment for those who cannot pay their whole bill or delay disconnection for customers trying to pay their bills,” according to the agency.

“I always encourage people when they need assistance to, first and foremost, contact their gas provider, who has access to all these programs,” Pridemore said.

Gainesville’s Ninth District Opportunity, which helps low-income families with a variety of services, also has a heating assistance program. The agency will begin accepting applications in the latest round of assistance starting Nov. 1. 

The program prioritizes households where applicants are 65 or older applicants or are medically homebound, said Natasha Carter of Ninth District.

“The majority of the people we see are on electric (as their utility),” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Helping with gas bills

Here are a couple of resources for consumers struggling to pay gas bills this winter:

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