LENEXA, Kan. — People aren’t just using more energy right now to heat their homes. It costs more, a whole lot more, which means you might be paying higher utility bills this month and for the next year as a result.
Natural gas and propane prices have skyrocketed, in some cases as much as 200 times higher than average. Right now utility companies are the ones paying those premiums, but much of that likely will work its way back to consumers.
Furnaces across most of America are working overtime as Kansas City and areas all the way down to Texas are in a deep freeze.
“They are running about 60 minutes out of the hour right now, they aren’t shutting off,” said Steve Burbridge, president of Anthony Plumbing Heating, Cooling and Electric.
But that increased demand has led to a spike in natural gas and propane costs.
“Those price spikes are very high, as much as 100, 150, 200 more than the normal wholesale price of gas, so that is obviously a concern,” said Andrew French, chair of the Kansas Corporation Commission.
U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall spoke to Kansas utility companies about the prices they’re having to pay to get the supply they need for customers. He’s trying to find out if there’s any price gouging going on and what it will ultimately mean for customers. He’s already seeking out possible federal aid.
“It certainly looks like a person’s natural gas bill or their electricity bill may double or triple for this month. It may cost as much to heat your house these past three days as it typically does in a month,” Marshall said.
The Kansas Corporation Commission said its ordered utilities to defer extreme costs and report back with a plan to smooth bill rate impacts. But know you’ll pay more for usage, and smaller utility companies need to be able to stay in business and might need to strengthen cash flow, meaning customers bills could be higher right away.
“These higher natural gas prices will flow through gas and electric bills, but I would emphasize that our utilities do have strategies to mitigate that,” French said.
In the meantime, you should enact your own strategies to keep your bill down. Many are similar to the ways utilities companies are asking you to prevent blackouts: turn down the thermostat, conserve energy and make sure your home is sealed as best as possible.
“It is better to have those window treatments closed. There again the fire place is a huge energy loser, seal those,” Burbridge said.
If you don’t heat with natural gas or propane, the bad news is this is still going to affect you and, in a way, it will hit all of us twice. Electric companies still use a lot of natural gas to produce that electricity. So we are going to probably be paying more for both bills this year.