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Be Prepared for Winter (electric)

While estimates of the price for electricity service offered by your local electric utility won’t be available until later this fall, it’s likely that the price customers pay for electricity this winter will be considerably higher than last winter.  While weather and other factors beyond our control affect the price of electricity, there are some things that you can do to help manage your bills this winter. 

Simple conservation measures can help you reduce your electric use and potentially save you money.  Cutting your electricity consumption is easy and the tips below will help you take the steps that are right for you. 

In addition to conserving energy throughout your home, there are a few other options available to help you manage your utility bills. All of New Hampshire’s electric utilities have budget billing programs or levelized billing programs, where the cost of your energy usage is spread out over a 12-month period.   Your electric utility also offers payment arrangements so that you can make payment towards higher than expected monthly bills over a longer period of time. 

Low-income households may also qualify for assistance programs that help pay utility bills.  To find out if you are eligible, contact your local community action agency for more information about the electric assistance program (EAP) as well as other programs.  You can also find information about the electric assistance program on our website. 

If you buy your electricity from a competitive energy supplier, review your contract carefully.  Look to see whether the price is fixed or variable.  With a fixed price, the price per kWh will be the same each month for the contract period.  If the market price of electricity increases during your contract term you will not be subject to the higher price.  Look to see when your contract ends and what happens when the contract ends.  If your energy service changes to a variable price offer, consider whether you are comfortable with the potential risks of a variable price offer.  Remember, with a variable price offer, the price per kWh may vary from month to month based on the wholesale price of electricity.  You may be unable to predict the amount of your bill for electric usage because the price may change.  If you decide to change to another competitive energy supplier or change back to the energy supply service offered by your utility, the change will not occur until your next meter read date provided the request to change is received by your electric utility a few days in advance of your next meter read date.  For more information about competitive energy suppliers, check out the Energy Choice information on our website. 

What Affects Electricity Prices

New Hampshire and the other New England states are part of a regional electrical system called ISO-NE.  ISO-NE monitors the demand for electricity in New England and makes sure there is enough electricity supply to meet the demand.  In 2013, approximately 45% of the electricity supplied in New Hampshire and New England came from generation plants that used natural gas to produce electricity.  Supplies of natural gas are located in other parts of the country, and the natural gas that we use here in New Hampshire and New England to heat our homes or to produce electricity travels through pipelines.  The natural gas utilities have contracts with the owners of the gas pipelines to make sure there is always enough gas for customers to heat their homes.  During extreme cold weather, the amount of natural gas needed for heating can sometimes take up most of the space, or capacity, in the pipeline.  When that happens, natural gas prices go up, the price of the electricity produced by the natural gas fired electric generation plants goes up and the wholesale price of electricity goes up. 

More information about real-time wholesale electricity prices is available from ISO-NE, the manager of the wholesale regional electric market. 

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