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The Real Deal: Energy Rates Finally Falling
ALBANY - After months of paying sky-high energy prices, National Grid customers will finally get some relief. The utility says most residential customers will pay about 40% less on the April bill compared to the March bill. The extreme cold and a backed-up transmission system in New York were a few of the factors that led to the massive price spikes customers have been dealing with since November but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also looking into whether the wholesales and distributors who sell to National Grid fixed the market. While that investigation is ongoing, prices have started to stabilize.
With more predictable weather, a more plentiful supply and an ease on the demand, the April supply rates for electric and natural gas are expected to be much lower than they have been over the past several months. National Grid customers will also notice a credit on the April bill under the line item labeled "ESRM." The utility forecasts the price of the supply a month in advance, if it's estimates are too high or too low customers see either a credit or a charge. In an email to customers, National Grid says, "In April, you will receive an ESRM credit on your bill because February wholesale electricity prices were slightly lower than forecasted prices. Your May bill will reflect the record-breaking cold and volatile wholesale electricity prices that were experienced in March. We're currently estimating that the ESRM line item in May will be a charge, but one that is lower than you saw in March. We will send you another communication later this month when we know the exact impact you will see in May."
Customers remain frustrated, "this was extremely dramatic...seems if they can't budget better than that, they need to get some new management," says Dave Davis, a customer who lives in Broadalbin. Right now, the New York State Public Service Commission is working with National Grid to find ways to try an avoid these massive price spikes in the future. State regulators have told CBS6, they're asking the utility to look further into how it hedges its supply in advance of winter heating season and whether it should secure more in before winter versus buying it on the open market and being at the mercy of these price fluctuations. "Hopefully it'll be sorted out by next winter," says Cynthia Evans, a homeowner in Albany. "We'll just have to see," adds Davis.
A National Grid Spokesman declined a CBS6 request for an on-camera interview but did say the utility is still willing to work with customers who are behind on their heating bills. It's offering both payment and budget plans.