Utahns are noticing higher electric bills this winter. Is it just cold outside or is energy getting more expensive?
Utah Public Service Commission Administrator Gary Wilderburg says the answer is both.
“It was a colder winter, gas supplies were tighter, and prices were higher across the country for a variety of reasons, especially since COVID,” Wilderburg said.
According to a Rocky Mountain Power spokesman, higher electricity bills are most likely due to increased use to keep warm in the winter.
On the other hand, gas has seen its price rise. Dominion Energy requested an increase in November, which the Public Service Commission approved in December. Jorgan Hofeling, communications strategic advisor at Dominion Energy, pointed out a number of factors that contributed to this change.
“In general, we can say that some of the factors are geopolitical conflicts, supply and demand — for example, LNG (liquefied natural gas) exports remain at historic highs,” Hofeling said. “The drought in the west has reduced hydroelectric production, and power generation from natural gas has replaced that demand.”
Utahns have seen the impact in their monthly bills.
“My electric bill has almost doubled for the same usage,” said Duke Raoul of Ogden on Facebook.
Marlene Wayment, another Ogden resident, said she watched her gas bill increase by about $50 each month from November through January without turning up the thermostat.
“If I turn the heat down at all, people downstairs, like my mom, will freeze because it’s so cold down there,” Wayment said. “So I always just keep it at 68 and then when it goes up I still have to pay the raise because if I turn it down they freeze down in the basement.”
There was also a smaller increase effective January 1 due to expenses incurred such as expanding service, equipment maintenance and building a new LNG facility to increase reliability on colder days.
The January increase was only about 4%, according to Hofeling, and it usually happens about every three years.
Höfeling emphasized that there are measures that people could take in the face of higher natural gas prices.
“We know some customers are feeling some economic strain, so we definitely want to make sure customers know there are plans for financial assistance,” she said.
Dominion customers can call to see if they are eligible for financial assistance. You can also use budget accounting, a plan that spreads a year’s payment evenly over the months.
In the meantime, maybe it’s time to pull out the covers.