Utahns are noticing higher utility bills this winter. Is it just cold outside, or is energy becoming more expensive?
Utah Public Service Commission administrator Gary Wilderburg says the answer is both.
“It’s been a colder winter, gas supplies have been tighter, and prices have been higher nationally for a variety of different reasons, especially since COVID,” Wilderburg said.
In the case of electricity, steeper bills are most likely a result of increased usage to keep warm in the winter, according to a Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson.
Gas, on the other hand, has seen a rate surge. Dominion Energy requested an increase in November, which the Public Service Commission approved in December. Jorgan Hofeling, communications strategic adviser for Dominion Energy, pointed to a number of factors that have contributed to this change.
“Generally, 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 driven down hydroelectric production, and natural gas electric production has replaced that demand.”
Utahns have seen the effects in their monthly bills.
“My power bill almost doubled for the same usage,” Duke Raoul, from Ogden, said on Facebook.
Marlene Wayment, another Ogden resident, said she watched her gas bill increase by about $50 each month from November to January without turning up the thermostat.
“If I turn down the heater at all, the people, like my mom, downstairs — they’ll freeze because it’s so cold down there,” Wayment said. “So I always just keep it at 68 and then if it goes up, I still have to just pay the increase because if I turn it down, then they freeze downstairs in the basement.”
There was also a smaller increase effective Jan. 1 due to incurred costs like expanding service, equipment maintenance and construction of a new liquefied natural gas facility to enhance reliability on colder days.
The January increase was only about 4% and usually happens about every three years, according to Hofeling.
Hofeling emphasized there are actions people can take in the face of higher natural gas prices.
“We do know that some customers are feeling some economic strain, so we definitely want to make sure that customers know that there are financial assistance plans out there,” she said.
Dominion customers can call to see if they qualify for financial assistance. They can also use Budget Billing, a plan that spreads a year’s payment evenly across the months.
In the meantime, it may be time to pull out the blankets.