National Grid on Tuesday forecast that its customers’ natural gas bills in the coming heating season would be slightly lower than during the typical upstate New York winter.
But that’s as far as the prediction goes: There’s no speculation whether the coming winter will be typical.
Both of the last two winters were anything but typical — 2015-2016 was much warmer than normal, resulting in customers burning less natural gas and the commodity price falling in response. The polar vortex of 2014-2015 caused more gas to be burned, and the supply price rose.
For 2016-2017, National Grid is predicting the average residential customer will use 713 therms of natural gas and pay $415, which is $12 less than the typical upstate winter. In 2015-2016, National Grid customers used only 610 therms.
The utility has kept its natural gas delivery price stable since 2004, and expects the stability to continue through 2018, so that side of the equation won’t affect customers’ bills.
“Our plan to hold delivery prices steady, combined with generally stable supply prices, means continued positive news for energy consumers,” Ken Daly, president of National Grid in New York, said in a news release. “Last winter was remarkably mild and stable prices will certainly be a benefit to consumers if we return to more typical winter weather.”
There’s good news as well for homeowners who heat with oil: The average price in the Capital Region is 7.6 percent lower than last year, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
NYSERDA said a gallon of heating oil in this area was running an average of $2.25 as of Monday, compared with $2.43 on Oct. 3, 2015.
At a news conference today at its Seneca Street training facility in Schenectady, National Grid also predicted moderating prices on the other side of its business — electricity.
The utility said it expected the average monthly electric bill for the coming winter — based on 600 kilowatt hours of usage — to be about $2 more than in the winter of 2015-2016 and $8 less than in the winter of 2014-2015.
National Grid also reminded consumers that energy efficiency — everything from upgrading to a better furnace to just replacing the air filter in the furnace — is an excellent way to cut monthly energy costs, regardless of how weather and commodity prices are fluctuating.
The utility offers a schedule of rebates for homeowners ranging from $25 for purchase of a programmable thermostat to $560 for a new gas hot water boiler; offers energy-efficiency services for rental property owners; and maintains a database of energy-saving tips and advice on its website.
Reach Gazette reporter John Cropley at 395-3104, [email protected] or @cropjohn on Twitter.