Your heating bill could send shivers up your spine this winter

Natural gas prices are higher worldwide, so WPS says customers can expect much higher bills this winter
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 4:05 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:27 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Electric bills this winter could send shivers up your spine with rising natural gas prices globally, making heating your home cost more.

The price of natural gas in the U.S. continues to rise. It’s partially due to Russia’s war in Ukraine. “You’ve had the invasion of Russia into Ukraine, and that has caused European countries to limit or stop using natural gas that’s exported from Russia. As a result, that’s driven global natural gas prices higher. That’s some of the factors that we’re seeing that is causing natural gas prices to remain at higher levels than they may have been in the past,” WPS spokesman Matt Cullen said.

The average Wisconsin Public Service customer spent $120 each month to heat their home last winter. Cullen said utility bills are expected to be significantly higher this year.

WPS is still finalizing its official heating forecast for the winter months -- you can expect it sometime in October -- but Cullen says customers should start preparing their budget now for added expenses this winter.

“We do not mark up or do not profit on the cost to purchase natural gas for our customers,” Cullen said. “Simply put, the price that we pay for natural gas is the same price that our customers pay for natural gas, both to their homes and for us to be able to use natural gas to generate the electricity that they need.”

Jenny Brinker is an energy management instructor at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. “We’re all strained right now with the increased costs of groceries and other impacts of inflation. I think we all should be considerate about those on a fixed income as they see their grocery bills rising, and then to have a hit from heating costs on top of that, it could really be a problem.”

Cullen and Brinker suggest people start taking simple steps now to manage their energy use before winter hits.

“Right now is a great time to look around your house, look around your windows and your doors, see if there’s any gaps or cracks that you might see, and use caulk or weather stripping to seal that up. That’ll keep the warm air inside your home that your furnace generates and prevent it from leaking outdoors,” Cullen offered.

“It’s a good time to schedule a [furnace] tune-up. A tune-up can provide a few percentage of savings when it comes to your annual heating costs,” Brinker said.

Payment plans and programs are available to help Wisconsin utility customers with monthly expenses. WPS asks customers who are having difficulty with their energy bills to reach out and ask for help.

“We can also provide them with information about energy assistance options that they may qualify for, and that includes Wisconsin’s Home Energy Assistance Program. We’ve also supported the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund, as well,” Cullen said.

Remember that utilities will not call you demanding payment or threatening disconnection. If you get a call like that, hang up on the caller and contact the utility yourself if you have concerns.

WPS says bills will be significantly higher than the $120/month average last winter