Report warns of high heating costs this winter due to COVID, colder temps

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(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Estimates on how much more Americans can expect to pay on heating costs and electricity vary widely in the U.S. According to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Winter Fuels Outlook released Wednesday, costs fluctuate depending on average winter temperatures, but Americans should plan to pay more no matter what.

How much more should people be prepared to pay? EIA, a federal agency, said that between 30% to 59% more for natural gas, propane, heating oil, and electricity. “As we head into the winter of 2021–22, retail prices for energy are at or near multiyear highs in the United States. The high prices follow changes to energy supply and demand patterns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” EIA said in its report.

EIA provides estimates for an average winter, a 10% warmer winter, and a 10% colder winter. Although Americans will be paying extra, the costs could be curbed by a mild winter. In that scenario, prices would be up only between 4% and 30%. It’s a big difference from estimates for a colder winter, which could eat significantly into people’s budgets.

Propane and heating oil are expected to see the highest increases. A colder winter could see the cost of propane up 94%, for heating oil 59%. The chart below looks at average estimates, as well as estimates for a milder or colder winter.

Milder winterAverageColder winter
Natural gas22%30%50%
Propane29%54%94%
Heating oil30%43%59%
Electricity4%6%15%
Source: EIA

“Even when we vary weather expectations, we expect the increase in energy prices as the United States returns to economic growth to mean higher residential energy bills this winter,” said EIA.

EIA releases its Winter Outlook Report for the coming winter in October. They said the higher heating costs are due to COVID and lower than normal supply. Besides higher costs, they also warn that propane and natural gas supplies could experience record lows if winter is colder than average.

EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook also looks at regional costs. On average, they said the Northeast will likely pay less for natural gas (18%), than the national average (30%). Prices for propane in the Northeast will be up 47%, but less than the national average of 54%.

On the other hand, electricity in the Northeast is estimated to be the highest in the U.S. (10%), compared to a 6% national average.

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