AARP Analysis: Polar Vortex Grip on NY Energy Costs to Last into Summer Natural Gas Shortage to Impact Summer Electric Bills & Cooling Costs in NY as Scorcher Expected
New Yorkers expecting to catch a break on their utility bills in warmer weather after an unrelenting winter that saw some heating bills soar as high as 55 percent can think again, warns a new AARP analysis. With the Farmer's Almanac predicting a scorching New York summer, AARP says state residents will get a reminder from the Polar Vortex every time they turn on the air-conditioning: higher electric bills.
It's all due to low natural gas inventory depleted during the Polar Vortex which remains low. Since the amount of electricity generated using natural gas has been increasing (now about 55 percent in New York State), a high demand for home cooling during a hotter-than-normal New York summer spells continued high bills for many state residents. All of this comes on top of New Yorkers paying the highest electric rates in the continental United States.
"New Yorkers, still reeling from home heating costs this winter, can expect to continue to get hammered by high bills this summer. That's the bottom line: there'll be no relief to kitchen table economies," said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State. "Throw looming rate hikes into the equation and household budgets for many simply don't stand a chance against unprecedented utility bills. Something's got to be done."
A number of factors could contribute to higher natural gas prices and higher process for the electricity it powers this summer:
- Storage facilities need to add record amounts of natural gas to rebuild inventories before the winter heating season. Lingering cold weather in many parts of the country during April resulted in lower-than-expected inventory replenishment during what is traditionally the start of inventory-building season
- Demand for natural gas is growing. As stricter emission regulations for electric power plants take effect, more electricity generators will likely switch from coal to natural gas.
- Increasing exports of natural gas may reduce the amount available for domestic use.
- A hotter-than-normal summer would increase air conditioning use and require greater amounts of natural gas to generate electricity.
- An active hurricane season could hinder natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and diminish supplies during the peak cooling season.
AARP says that situation, plus continued soaring electric costs in New York, drive home the need for the state legislature to create a utility watchdog this session. While the price of energy itself is determined by the marketplace, the cost of delivering that energy to consumers is in the hands of the utility companies and the Public Service Commission. Currently, New York consumers don't have a meaningful voice or a seat at the regulatory table in proceedings to determine that delivery cost. AARP has made changing that an Association priority.
The State Assembly is expected to pass an AARP-backed bill establishing an independent watchdog to advocate for utility consumers, sponsored by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) and carried in the Senate by Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island). The Association is calling on the Senate to do the same.
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