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Staying warm to cost up to 90% more

U.S. households can expect to pay sharply higher monthly heating bills this winter, with the increases ranging from 45% to 90% in much of the country, utility companies and weather forecasters warn. Surging energy prices, which have been climbing since spring, come at a time when many households are contending with higher mortgage-finance costs, higher taxes that accompany increased real estate assessments and property-insurance price increases the past two years.

John Tuccillo, former chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, says these creeping demands on household incomes will cut U.S. economic growth by three-quarters to 1 percentage point next year. Raphael Bostic, a professor of urban economics at the University of Southern California, says fixed-income and low-income households will be hardest hit.

Higher energy prices are now the No. 1 concern of most small and midsize business owners, a PNC Financial Services Group survey revealed Thursday.


Alabama


Alabama Power pondering temporary rate increase

After four hurricanes tore through Florida last year, three of the state's five major electric utilities won temporary rate increases to help cover the cost of repairs and other expenses. With Alabama Power Co. now estimating its tab from Hurricane Katrina at a minimum of $70 million, the Alabama Public Service Commission will probably decide by year's end whether to take a similar route, a spokesman for the state regulatory agency indicated Thursday.

Arkansas


The highs and lows of Katrina

Saturday, Sep 17, 2005

To the state's three gas utilities, who are all asking for rate increases as state regulators warn that gas bills for residential customers will double this winter.

Those three companies, CenterPoint Arkla, Arkansas Western Gas and Arkansas Oklahoma Gas, have all by themselves changed Arkansas from a low-cost gas state to one where gas bills for residential consumers are now higher than the national average.

Those companies will be sending you a little note in the mail sometime soon telling you to either chill out during the winter or expect to pay a king's ransom to keep warm.

California


Natural gas bills expected to rise 71%, PG&E says

KATRINA & RITA: Utility blames hurricanes for enormous jump in home heating costs

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. warned Friday that Northern California home heating bills would leap 70.8 percent in October as hurricanes Katrina and Rita drive up natural gas prices nationwide.

The storms smashed through a thicket of offshore rigs that supply roughly one-fifth of the nation's natural gas.

Americans dealing with record high gasoline prices caused by the hurricanes now also face the prospect of a painfully expensive home heating season. Utilities across the country are bracing their customers for increases ranging from 55 to 75 percent.


Katrina Hits Bay Area Pocketbooks Again

SAN JOSE -- The economic heat on Bay Area resident is about to increase with Friday's announcement by utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric that it will raise natural gas rates by 71 percent for October in the wake of Katrina's damage in the Gulf.

The utility claims it has no choice after Hurricane Katrina damaged a major portion of the nation's natural gas generating capabilities along the Gulf Coast. The rate increase will impact residents from Bakersfield north to the Oregon border.

The utility said for the average residential customer a 71 percent increase translates to $17.45 more for the gas portion of their bill this October compared to a year ago.

Colorado


Electric bills join natural gas boost

9 October 2005

Combined increases will raise cost to average consumer by 33%

Colorado consumers will get hammered with a major increase in electric bills - on top of soon-to-soar heating costs - under a price hike filed Wednesday by Xcel Energy.

Xcel asked state regulators to approve a 30 percent increase in monthly electric bills, effective Nov. 1. For the average residential customer, monthly electric costs would rise $16 a month, from the current $53 to $69. The price hike is a direct pass- through to consumers as a result of increased costs to Xcel.

Xcel further forecasts that winter heating bills for typical residential customers will increase by $44, from $127 last December to $171 this December.

The combined monthly costs for electricity and natural-gas heating this December would be $240, a huge jump of 33 percent from last year.

"It's going to be bad, really bad for consumers,"

Florida


JEA Announces Another Rate Increase

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - JEA has announced it is raising its rates again to cover soaring fuel costs.  The community-owned utility company raised its rates by an average of $7 in November 2004 and then again by $10 in April. Now, JEA wants to raise utility rates by another $12.

JEA officials said Hurricane Katrina's impact on the Gulf Coast put such a squeeze on fuel prices that they have no choice but to raise their rates again.

"Two things are happening: Fuel has come up more than we predicted when we had the increase, and that was before Katrina," JEA Vice President of Marketing and Strategies Randy Boswell said. "And after Katrina, they have gone up 30 to 40 percent."

If approved, the latest increase could cost the average customer an additional $12 per month. Including the latest increases, JEA customers are paying an additional $29 more monthly on their utility bills. That's an additional $348 per year.

Massachussets


Mass. utility to seek jump of 28 percent

Request called biggest in 25 years

Massachusetts Electric Co., the state's largest utility, said yesterday it will seek to raise rates for its 1.2 million customers by 28 percent starting in November because of soaring global energy prices.

The rate increase is the biggest sought by an electric utility in the state for at least 25 years, regulators said, and would cost the average homeowner $17.50 a month. Larger businesses, which normally pay higher rates than residential customers, could see increases as high as 50 percent.

New Hampshire


Unitil asks for 60% hike

From school districts to shopping malls, Unitil Corp. is asking for an average 60 percent hike in electric rates for about 150 of its largest commercial and industrial customers because of rising fuel costs. Similar increases are possible in the coming months for both business and residential customers of Public Service of New Hampshire, according to an official with the Public Utilities Commission, which approves rate increases.

"The rate increase we're seeing for Unitil customers is the largest increase we've seen in electric rates in the last 15 to 20 years," said F. Anne Ross, the PUC's consumer advocate. "It's a warning signal and it's certainly a sign to be careful about energy use going into the winter season."

A PSNH spokesman doubted rates would surge as high as Unitil's.

Granite State Electric, which serves the Salem area and parts of western New Hampshire, also is requesting rate hikes for 29 large New Hampshire business customers. The kilowatt-hour charge would change each month, rising 43 percent in November and by 81 percent in January, compared to current Granite State Electric figures.

Rhode Island


Narragansett Electric proposes 24 percent rate increase

October 9

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Rhode Islanders are dealing with high gasoline prices. They may be facing high electricity bills soon, too.

Narragansett Electric has proposed increasing rates by 24 percent, which, if approved, would raise rates to their highest level ever.

The request was made yesterday to the state Public Utilities Commission, and would take effect on October First. It's believed to be the largest increase made by Narragansett Electric in at least 25 years.

The proposal would mean a typical customer would pay 184 dollars more a year.

The utility says the increase is necessary because energy costs have risen sharply recently, partly because of Hurricane Katrina.

On top of that, New England Gas has asked the P-U-C to raise rates by 13 percent.

South Carolina


SCE&G seeks 50 percent gas rate increase

September 24, 2005

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Consumers would pay 50 percent more for natural gas this winter under rates South Carolina Electric and Gas has proposed.

SCANA, SCE&G's parent company, is asking the Public Service to allow it to raise the portion of customers' bills that pays for gas by 57 percent on average. That would boost the average charge from $121 a month to $172, or 42 percent.

The state Office of Regulatory Staff will review the rate increase request. "I've been in the business a long time and I don't recall anything of this size," agency executive director Dukes Scott said. "In the winter time, when people start getting the bills, we'll hear from them."

Texas


CenterPoint, Reliant plan double-digit rate jumps

Two local utilities plan to dish out increases in electric and natural gas bills.

A typical customer of Reliant Energy, the city's largest power provider, can expect to see bills go up by 14 percent beginning at the end of October. Another hike is expected Jan. 1.

And for the second time in two months, a typical customer of CenterPoint Energy will see natural gas bills grow, this time by 11 percent.

The increases are being blamed on skyrocketing natural gas prices, which have climbed 98 percent since early July.

Reliant asked the Texas Public Utility Commission on Monday to let it increase the so-called fuel factor it charges customers beginning as early as the end of October. The increase is expected to be approved.

This would increase Reliant's per kilowatt hour rate from 12.88 cents to 14.70 cents. A bill for a home using 1,000 kwh per month would grow from $128.80 to $147.

On Jan. 1, the per kilowatt hour rate is expected to increase again, to 16.04 cents, representing another 9 percent increase in that monthly bill.

Reliant could have increased the price to 16.04 cents earlier, but it reached an agreement with the PUC to phase the increases in two steps, said Jim Robb, vice president of retail marketing.

Washington


PSE natural gas rates set to jump

2005-09-29

Puget Sound Energy customers will see their natural gas rates rise next month by nearly 14 percent -- $11.31 a month for typical households -- boosting the average monthly residential rate to $96.48.

The new rates, which take effect Saturday, are the highest ever charged for natural gas in this state, according to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, which announced its approval of the price hike Wednesday.

The increases are not related to recent hurricane damage in the Gulf Coast region, whose impact on natural gas prices here isn't expected to be felt until next year.

Bellevue-based PSE, the state's largest provider of natural gas, described the rate hike as a ``pass-through'' change, meaning that the company is not making any additional profit from charging the higher amount.

Dorothy Bracken, a spokeswoman for PSE, said the higher rate reflects what the utility company has been paying for the past six months to secure natural gas supplies from wholesale providers.

The cost for natural gas has been steadily going up for the past three years, Bracken said, attributing the price hikes to the ``supply and demand phenomenon'' in the energy market.

Wisconsin


WPS seeks 17% electric rate hike

Wisconsin Public Service Corp. on Thursday adjusted its 2006 request for an electric rate increase to 17.1 percent.

The Green Bay-based utility said the increase was prompted by higher natural gas prices. The natural gas in this case is used by Wisconsin Public Service and its suppliers as fuel for generating electricity, as opposed to the natural gas it distributes to people for heating their homes.

For a typical customer using 630 kilowatt hours, the monthly electricity bill would increase $11.19 per month.

The company added 5.7 percentage points to the earlier rate increase request.

And in Canada as well:


BC Utilities Commission approves October natural gas rate increase

September 15, 2005

The BC Utilities Commission approved a natural gas commodity rate increase today that will add about 13.3 per cent to the annual bill for a typical Terasen Gas residential customer in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Interior, North and Kootenays.
This works out to an annual increase of about $155 to $180 depending on consumption levels. The new rates take effect October 1, 2005.  Delivery rates are not affected by this increase.
Natural gas rates in Fort Nelson will increase 28 per cent. Propane rates for Revelstoke will increase 13.3 per cent while propane rates in Whistler will rise 5.7 per cent.
Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast, and Powell River Squamish gas customers will see no rate change since they are covered by a different regulatory agreement.
Since June, natural gas commodity prices have risen more than 30 per cent, driven by increased demand brought on by a hot summer, the rising price of crude oil and disruptions to supply caused by Hurricane Katrina.


Originally posted to Jerome a Paris on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 05:46 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar - Oct. 9 (4.00)

    In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
    Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

    by Jerome a Paris on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 05:43:31 AM PDT

    •  And remember (4.00)
      this is just the beginning. Katrina is used as an excuse, but natural gas prices had actually already been increasing before Katrina, and Katrina only worsened the trend.

      This is just the beginning.

      In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
      Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

      by Jerome a Paris on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 05:50:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And oil companies (none)
        continue to make billions in profits.  

        There is no way our economy can "swallow" the increased costs of natural gas, gas for our cars and then the higher cost of everything that ends up in stores via trucks.

        I am already looking at the best way to cut costs this winter: buying insulated drapes for most of the house so that we don't lose heat through our windows (we have the old, single ones), shorter showers, have to get the front door weather stripping fixed, insulating all of the plugs that are on outside walls, and making sure that the family has warm pjs to wear in the house as we allow the temp to fall.

        Christmas spending? Will be half (if that) of what we spent last year.  

        "September 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country." Judge Gerald Tjoflat

        by SanJoseLady on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:42:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  my roomates and i were (none)
    absolutely floored by the heating bills assessed to us by our landlord last winter here at our loft in brooklyn. in february alone it almost $700. i tremble at the thought of what those bills will be like this winter. i tremble as well at how we are going to pay them.

    will we get a $1300 bill sometime this season? i certainly hope not, yet i fear that we will. yikes.

    thanks for the roundup, jerome. you rock.

    "after the Rapture, we get all their shit"

    check out Daily Gotham, yo!

    by lipris on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 05:49:54 AM PDT

  •  Montana (none)
    Northwest Energy has requested and the the MT Public Service Commission has approved a 27% hike in the price of natural gas for home and business heating.

    A consortium of five Montana cities are still pursuing their plan to purchase Northwest Energy, and create a public utility company. The intial offer of $2 billion dollars was rejected by Northwest's board of directors, but the consortium is taking a similar offer directly to Northwest's stockholders.

    "We will go to the moon, and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard". President John F. Kennedy, 1961.

    by Ed in Montana on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 05:53:50 AM PDT

    •  do you think Kaddis knows what he is doing, Ed? (none)
      I'm starting to wonder.

      They might be relying too much on consultants, I'm starting to think...

      •  Good question (none)
        But I am pretty sure Kaddis and company can't screw it up more than Governor Marc Racicot and the Montana Power Wrecking Crew did.

        "We will go to the moon, and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard". President John F. Kennedy, 1961.

        by Ed in Montana on Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 07:29:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If we could harness (none)
    your blogging energy, we'd all be better off.

    Rate increases come as little surprise to anyone who's paying attention, but how many families are going to be totally taken by surprise?

    To call the Commander in Chief detached from reality would be an insult to paranoid schizophrenics everywhere. --billmon

    by vicki on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 05:58:17 AM PDT

  •  Jerome (none)
    Do you have any information for Connecticut?
  •  Thanks for all the Energy Diaries Jerome.......... (none)
    Luckily I rent (with H/HW included), so I haven't been directly affected by these higher costs. Yet.

    My landlord informed me last week that she locked in at $2.09/gal rate for heating oil, up from $1.49/gal last year.

    Time to stock up on the sweaters and flannels.

    Thanks again for all the energy diarys. This is only going to get worse............

  •  Pennsylvania (4.00)
    Starting today, expect your gas bill to increase by 19.4 percent if you live in Philadelphia and have gas heat.

    The state Public Utility Commission approved the increase yesterday at the request of the Philadelphia Gas Works, which cited the rising wholesale cost of natural gas.

    On average, typical residential-heating customers can expect their bill to increase by $335 a year, according to PGW officials. This increase comes on top of a 4.9 percent hike that PGW implemented on Sept. 1 for its 500,000

    "I fear an all-too-real nightmare of higher natural gas prices and a lack of consumer understanding of new shutoff rules, and possibly a harsh upcoming winter," Holland said.

    A state law adopted by the legislature last year allows utilities to shut off nonpaying customers during the winter (Dec. 1 to March 31). Previously, that had been prohibited.

    Link
    ++++++

    PGW has a ridiculously high number on non-payment accounts.  This will only make it worse.  And with the administration cutting heating subsidies, iIt is going to be a very volatile winter in Philly.

    P.U.R.P.L.E. (Peace, Unity, Respect, Positivity, Love, Equality)

    by dugjxn on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 06:06:39 AM PDT

    •  no! (none)
      what about the seniors of Philadelphia?  often they can't afford drugs and food.  now they have to worry about heat.  we might have cops busting doors and finding people frozen in their own homes.  this makes me sick.
      •  In MN people can't be unplugged (none)
        if they can't pay their heating bill, it's a state law. I hope other cold weather states have this in place or get it in there soon.

        Also, my city here in MN offers low-interest loans to pay heating bills (5%), which could help some folks. Seems like a good service for other places to provide as well.

        But I'm feeling pretty good about my decision to buy a new modestly sized center-unit row home that is insulated so tightly it has to have an air exchanger. We'll see how bad it gets, though, this is my first winter here.  The monster homes down the street from me, though, I wouldn't want to see their bill...

  •  not just in the USA (none)
    And it's not just in North America that these prices are rising.

    In the UK, British Gas have notified me of a 14.2% rise in my gas bills; Seeboard, my electricity provider, have raised ( after a couple of years of no increases at all ) my tariffs 33% for day & 43% for night units.

    So, Jerome, are your rates rising in Paris too?

    •  Gas increasing (none)
      A 2.6% increase took place on 1 September. Another (probably around 8%) is expected on 1 November, and something similar likely on 1 January.

      Natural gas prices in Europe move more slowly because wholesale prices are usually calculated as a sliding average of the past several months' prices of oil, and retail prices move a lot less because distribution costs, taxes and the like do not change so much.

      Electricity prices will likely increase much less in France (thanks to nuclear) than in places like the UK, Germany or Spain which increasingly rely on gas. Plus EDF will make tons of money from exports to these more expensive markets...

      In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
      Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

      by Jerome a Paris on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 06:47:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nothing for NY? (none)
    I just did a little digging -looks like NYSEG just filed for a electricity rate decrease of 9.5%, but natural gas charges are predicted to go up 35%, and another major provider is raising electric rates about 3%, if I read this right.
    Electric utility plans rate cut

    "Virginia Woolf's idea of a room of one's own has never been the place for middle- and working-class women. We work with interruptions." - Ananya Chatterjea

    by sarac on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 06:20:22 AM PDT

  •  It May get worse (none)
    a majority of gulf production is still down, implying distillate production may be off-line for at least another few weeks.

    "You think you can intimidate me? Screw you. Choose your Weapon." Eliot Spitzer

    by bonddad on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 06:21:13 AM PDT

  •  Haven't they already made indecent profits? (none)
    I remember natural gas spiking thin 2001.  There may infrastructure damage but if the gas is still flowing, why shouldn't the gas companies share the burden?  Did n't Jimmy Carter impose a windfall proit tax on big oil during the 70's?  
    I swear these people are going to suchk as much money from s as they possibly can before this is all over.  
    There will be a LOT of new Democrats born this winter.  

    "Choose something like a star to stay your mind on- and be staid"

    by goldberry on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 06:28:29 AM PDT

    •  Utilities are different (none)
      Most utilities are regulated, have a regulated rate of return and only get profits from the transmission and connection fees.  These increases are direct flow through costs of the cost of natural gas, on which they make no profit on.  Some utilities, like UGI in PA have cut their flat rates to help offset the increase, so some utilities are tightening their belts.

      Utilities are not big oil.  Remember, the big oil companies have forced some utilities into bankruptcy here in California and elsewhere.

      P.U.R.P.L.E. (Peace, Unity, Respect, Positivity, Love, Equality)

      by dugjxn on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:05:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  SOME 'For Profit' Utilities are Different (none)
        and then there are the Duke Powers, the Enrons  (lurking during bankruptcy reorganization, but  still undead ), the Tenaskas, the AEIs and other 'baby Enrons', 'investor' (privately) owned peaking power plant companies which only came about after federal deregulation allowed them to set up (usually gas-fired) generator plants, usually sited where a major gas pipeline and a grid transmission line intersect, and pump value-added electricity (made from natural gas they get at discount contract prices compared to home and small business users)  and sell power back to municipal utilities at what the market. On top of that, the baby Enrons don't have to worry or pay much for upkeep, improvement, or load coordination of the grid, so that is one less overhead cost item to subtract from their bottom line. Lack of load coordination/balancing  is also the main reason the eastern-central national  grid went down in August 2003.

        Trouble is, these baby Enrons are tied through murky stock ownership and interlocking directorship links  back to the oil companies, who

        1. are benefitting from former surplus of cheap NG supply tightening up increasing selling price
        2.  are seeing their linked interests turn a profit from a value added us of the natural gas they produce

        This "privatized 'for profit' peaking plant" phenomenon has all started happening since the late 1990's, and the municipalities' and not for profit regional utilities' dependence on them  to provide significant portions of  "year round" electric power has accelerated since the California energy manipulation in 2000.
  •  Wood (4.00)
    An alternative fuel in New England is wood, many of us have wood burning stoves and even furnaces (we have one interconnected with the oil burner system), but try to get wood, never mind the price hikes! Suppliers are running months behind on orders, and wood takes time, it is dangerous to burn green wood which fills your chimney with creosote=chimney fires. Wood needs to sit some months to a year to be good burning fuel. We did get ours last spring, so we are OK for this year, and my husband will be cutting some trees on our property this winter for next year. But not everyone has trees to cut, and there will be house fires this year because people are not careful with wood stoves. I am starting to think seriously about solar as a supplement, for hot water (our heating system is forced hot water) plus maybe electricity. Anyone have any good contacts?

    We believe in prosperity & opportunity, strong communities, healthy families, great schools, investing in our future and leading the world by example.

    by nhselectwoman on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 06:30:00 AM PDT

    •  Though oddly (none)
      We decided at the last minute (ie, last month), that we didn't have enough wood to get through the winter, and we actually got a 'truckload' (non-standard measurement!) of seasoned hardwood, to our amazement and delight.  I've noticed large chunks of wood disappearing out of brush piles that people have put by their curbs for collection this fall.

      If you want info on solar projects, I've found pathtofreedom.com useful, it's an 'Urban Homesteading' site, and isn't the first thing to come up on Google.  It's not the best organized site though, so put 'solar' into the google search box on the front page and make sure you set it to search the site, not the whole web.

      We fired up the woodstove yesterday for the first time (43 degrees and drizzling).  We use it to supplement a natural gas furnace, though we did have to heat the house with it alone one year when the power went out for three days, so we'll see what we can do this winter.

      "Virginia Woolf's idea of a room of one's own has never been the place for middle- and working-class women. We work with interruptions." - Ananya Chatterjea

      by sarac on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 06:51:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  http://findsolar.com (4.00)
      Disclaimer: Above site is sponsored by American Solar Energy Society, the Solar Electric Power Association, and the Department of Energy; they'll have a vested interest in promotion.

      More educational stuff on renewable energy here: http://www.renewableenergyaccess.com/

      Check out the job listings at this site; names of employers may be helpful since they indicate companies with active business (I see at least two firms hiring in Massachusetts, for example).

      •  Gaiam (none)
        I also got an interesting catalog from GAIAM, used to be Seventh Generation. Solar pumps for water - that's a big issue because a submersible pump in an artesian well is the biggest draw, when it starts up, that any rural house has on the electricity. Lots of other interesting stuff, and hints on when to wait a while and see if prices come down as the stuff gets more competitive. Lots of this kinda stuff going on in Europe and elsewhere outside the US, I read.

        We believe in prosperity & opportunity, strong communities, healthy families, great schools, investing in our future and leading the world by example.

        by nhselectwoman on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:19:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Chimney Fires (none)
      That's great advice about burning green wood, although even the driest wood will still produce creosote. It's a matter of the water vapor in smoke (all combustion produces H20) going up the chimney cooling enough to condense. You still need to clean your chimney regularly if you burn wood. We burn wood every day, so we either do it ourselves or get it done once a year.

      If you haven't used a stove or fireplace in a while, it's a good idea to just burn some paper first to make sure the chimney's clear. We've had screened chimney caps plug up with creosote, and the chimney we had that didn't have a screen was a magnet for bird's nests. If you have vines growing up the outside of your chimney, they can grow over the top and plug it too. A plugged chimney means a house full of smoke and beeping smoke detectors (and if you don't have smoke detectors when burning wood you're foolish).

      Make sure you dispose of ash from the fireplace or stove safely. Ash a couple of days old can still contain enough live coals to start a fire in a garbage can - I know people who started their house on fire that way. Use a metal container or spread the ash on top of snow.

      We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

      by badger on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:42:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Depending on where (none)
      you are in New Hampshire, you should have neighbors who know about solar. It's easy to put it on a house to handle hot water, getting easier to take an entire house off the grid. (And would be much easier and cheaper if we'd had the national political will to do anything about this in the last 20 years. <sigh>)

      Try the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, in Greenfield, Mass. They sponsor the annual solar tour around there, will have names, perhaps even educational workshops to suggest.

      Also, Center for Environmental Technology in Pittsfield, Mass., has lots of information, can steer you to other sources. I think there's a branch office in Northampton.

      Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war. -- Donald Rumsfeld

      by Mnemosyne on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:58:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  RE: Wood (none)
      Let's not kid ourselves about wood. It's the absolute worst energy source when it comes to releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. It's dirty and it's difficult to get. The average suburbanite could not find enough fire wood to supplement their heating requirements and even if they could the pollution generated would be untenable as more people started burning it.

      I love cutting my own fire wood but I am fortunate to have plenty of land in the country. It gives me a great sense of connectedness to go out into the woods and and do this. But I use a gas-powered chain saw to cut the wood into lengths. Then I load them on to my trailer, which is hitched to my gas-powered tractor. Then I haul them to the wood shed where I split them with my gas-powered hydraulic wood splitter.

      I can't even imagine how the old-timers use to do this with a crosscut saw, axes, splitting mulls and wedges. It would kill me to do it that way today. I am so spoiled by fossil fuels. Even with all my modern gas-powered tools it's damn hard work.

      It's naive to think wood is in any way the answer to our energy problems.

    •  Wood heat is awesome (none)
      Enjoy it, the dampness of the heat feels great on a cold winter morning!

      Has anyone looked into wood pellet furnances?

    •  Hi NH Selectwoman (none)
         I'm a neighbor i guess.  We have a good supply of wood for this winter and working on next years now.  
         Keep pots of hot water on your stove, increases humidity and warms the air, and use it for dishes.  Also if you have a stove you can dry clothes in the house.  Dry them long enough to get the lint and wrinkles out.  They might smell like smoke but who cares.  I noticed once in an air port I smelled like a woodstove.  Get the energy smart bulbs.  Saves a lot. I want to find one of those turbo fans to put on the stove it works from heat not electric.
  •  Wood pellet shortage and price increase (none)
    Due to a crush of demand on alternative energy sources, thanks to a woefully short-sighted energy policy and Katrina/Rita, wood pellets are in high demand.

    When I bought my pellet stove a couple of weeks ago, I was urged to buy all my pellets for the winter now, because they were predicting a shortage due to demand.

    Also, in April, pellets cost $4.00 per 40-lb bag in NH; now they average $4.70

    The effects of this chain reaction are deep and difficult to see.

    "Too many democrats voted for this war." - Sen. Feingold

    by Republic Not Empire on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 06:33:51 AM PDT

  •  Meanwhile, in my old hometown (none)
    SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) doesn't appear to be raising rates.  In fact an adjoining county is trying to be annexed into their system to get away from PGE.

    SMUD

    SMUD spent the 90's with few if any energy rate increases. They are still giving rebates and offering interest-rate help with energy-related retrofits.  They have a mirror farm that provides some of their electricity, among other environmentally-friendly programs.

    All this after having their nuclear reactor handed back to them by popular vote in the early 90's.

    We should be so lucky here in Dominion Power land.

    Mark
    Cumberland Virginia

  •  Maryland checking in (none)
    From WaPo:

    "The 338,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers in Anne Arundel and Howard counties can expect increases of 35 to 50 percent over last year's bills, officials have said. The average cost for Washington Gas's 415,000 customers in Montgomery, Prince George's, St. Mary's, Calvert and Frederick counties is expected to rise 20 to 32 percent."

    Overall, Maryland's natural gas bills will go up roughly 50%.

    Ouch. Stocking up on socks and long undies and learning to crochet,

    Lulu in PG County

    "We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now!"--Withnail & I

    by lulu57 on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:00:12 AM PDT

  •  From Georgia... (4.00)
    High Natural Gas Prices Predicted, PSC Urges Consumers to Prepare for Winter Heating Season

    Commission Issues Winter Heating Outlook
    Forecasters are predicting higher natural gas prices this winter due to the shut down of natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as well as increasing demand. This situation means the average residential heating bill could be more than 23 percent higher this winter than last year and prices are likely to go even higher. Demand for natural gas continues to rise as a growing percentage of electric generation and residential heating comes from natural gas.  

    In light of these predicted high energy prices this winter, the Georgia Public Service Commission (Commission) urges consumers to begin preparations for the winter season before the cold weather hits. Wholesale natural gas prices are not controlled by the state of Georgia or Georgia's utilities. They fluctuate with the national market. Higher prices and a colder winter mean you may have to pay more to heat your home.  

    Consumers can manage and possibly reduce their winter heating costs by taking the following steps....

    No man is a failure who has friends. Clarence the Angel

    by Caldonia on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:01:47 AM PDT

    •  Deja Vu (4.00)
      I feel like I'm back in 1974.

      Thanks for links to the tips, Cal.  I might actually have to do some of them, somehow.  Get out my handy dandy tools and get learnin' and doin'.

      (Actually I take these things a lot more seriously than my above comments suggest.  I am a big proponent of conservation in many forms and I try to do my share.  I'm just not sure how I'll manage to do these extra tasks along with everything else on my plate.  But where there's a will, there's a way.)

      "Let him that would move the world first move himself." --Socrates

      by joanneleon on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 11:27:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Jim a Connecticut says: (none)
    How 'bout a little less darkness cursing a some more candle lighting....eeesh (I'm off to slit my wrists)

    In the beginning there was nothing...which exploded.

    by lucysdad on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:05:23 AM PDT

    •  I kept checking back... (none)
      to see if anyone had some light for you!  I was hoping to see some myself, I totally get what you are saying.

      Well, here's my little tip:  learn to knit.  Keeps your upper body moving, but if the project is big enough it keeps your lower body warm too!  

      Combine that with a kitty on your lower legs (on the ottoman) + warm slippers.  

      Toasty solution to winter*.  

      *May not work for everyone.  But works for me....

  •  Kansas - Westar trying to raise rates (none)
    They held a hearing about it in Wichita on 10/7/05.
    Link
    The state proposed a rate decrease to their rate increase. And 2 former execs just got found guiltly of trying to loot Westar of 40+ Million dollars. Needless to say, they(Westar) didn't get a very warm reception!

    Luckily I live in a small town where the rates are several times lower due to the farsightedness of a former mayor. He had built one of the first steam turbine generators in the area and secured long-term leases for natural gas in the 1940's. We now get our elcetricity from Westar at our rates in exchange for letting them use the gas leases. And that turbine? It's sitting ready to go as a backup if the need rises.

    I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. -Voltaire

    by baracon on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:07:12 AM PDT

  •  the midwest.... (4.00)
    .... is slated to get hit very hard. A local paper reported a 69% to 77% increase in the price of natural gas this comming winter. This does not bode well for our economy. Add the October credit card suprise to the energy crunch and you get a dismal Christmas holiday.

      I have had a wood burning stove in my basement for four years now but haven't spent the $2000 to run a stainless steel liner in my chimney. There are abudant quanities of free wood near me, it's just a matter of making the effort to go get it. I'm seriously considering upgrading my chimney in light of recent devolopments.

  •  Western NC and SC (none)
    Duke Power Company sent a notice out to its customers in NC and SC saying that because it uses coal and nuclear to fuels its power plants, that the Gulf Coast hurricanes would not affect it much.  The notice said nothing about prices.

    The revolution starts now--in your own back yard, in your own home town

    by TarheelDem on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:23:36 AM PDT

    •  Yeah (none)
      It's Piedmont Natural Gas we have to worry about.  I read that they had requested a 50% rate hike, but I can't find the article on charlotte.com at the moment.

      "Really," said the Scarecrow, "you ought to be ashamed of yourself for being such a humbug." -- L. Frank Baum

      by kismet on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 09:23:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  efficiency, my friend... (none)
    I'm all for solar energy and switching to wood (if you can get it) to offset gas heating costs, but let's not forget that increasing efficiency is the number-one way to save for most residences.

    Cutting down in space heating costs is the most important. Windows are about the worst heat-losers, especially if you have archaic single panes or drafty seals. Replacing windows and doors with well-fitted, low-heat loss versions helps a ton. If you can't do this before winter or are on a tight budget, taping clear plastic over windows (sealed well at all the edges) also helps a bunch.

    The more each of us save, the better off we are and the better off everyone else is too because it lessens the supply crunch - and (hopefully) lowers prices.

  •  Missouri (none)
    Ameren UE is already making noises about raising the rates....its seemingly inevitable.

    It will be much easier for them to do so now that our neocon wunderboy Blunt Trauma governor is in office. ACK!

  •  Our county utility (none)
    announced no price increase for 2006 for electricity. We already have some of the lowest rates in the nation - cheap enough that most people heat with electricity. As far as I know, you can't get natural gas anywhere around here. You can get propane, but that was already pretty expensive.

    I put up 3 cords of wood this summer, which will probably last into 2007, and my daughter's away at college, so heat/electricity will probably cost us less this year.

    If it's any consolation, it takes about 15-20 gallons of gasoline to put up that much wood and about the same to blow snow every winter, mostly for the tractor, so I'll see some increase in costs.

    We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

    by badger on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 07:52:27 AM PDT

  •  How's this for an outrage... (none)
    Earlier this year, Pepco notified me that it was cancelling its "Energy Saver" program.

    I signed up for it several years ago and it gave me a $4/month discount in exchange for allowing the installation of a device that would turn off my AC once per day for up to an hour.

    The message was clear--burn, baby burn your AC 24/7 and set your thermostat on ice!

    Makes you want to scream.

    Related, today on EWM, a scientific shocker. Study: Euthanizing Right-wing Pundits would Solve Global Warming

  •  Massachusetts : (none)
    Last month I got a cute little note from my gas supplier, Nstar, announcing a 70% gas rate increase.

    This follows on the heels of increases in the last two or three years - basically, as far I can guess without bothering to do the math - the cost of the gas I use to heat my house has increased by at least 150% in the last three years.

    I just bought a wood stove, a lot of firewood, and a huge amount of insulation. I may put in a passive solar box too.  

  •  Wide range of increases (none)
    Is anyone else struck by the wide variation between  the increases in different states? For example, CO and CA weigh in at 70%, while WI will see a much smaller 17% increase. That's a huge, difference.

    While it's true that these states are far apart, and local cost variations could account for some of the difference, there are wide disparities even between adjacent states. For example, in MA (where I live) the increase will be 28% for residential users, and up to 50% for commercial users; in aggregate let's call it 40%. To our north in NH the increase is 60%, while to the south to RI it will be 24%. It's hard to imagine that the energy costs alone explain this difference.

    Maybe the increases are being reported differently, e.g. relative to the total (energy + distribution) monthly charge in some cases, and just on the energy portion of that charge in others. Perhaps Jerome or someone else can weigh in. But I also wonder, post-Enron, does this indicate a disparity between the degree of regulation/deregulation in effect in different markets?

    Finally, and more bleakly, I wonder whether some utilities may be using the real cost disruption presented by Katrina/Rita to build in long-term higher rates. Right now, neither consumers nor utility boards are in a position to challenge whether the right number for an increase is X% or Y%, since the situation is fluid. So it's much easier for a utility company to aim high and pad this request by some amount, say 15%, than it is to get that same increase later when the energy situation is more stable.

    •  Different fuel mix (none)
      Currently, natural gas is increasing the most. Coal has increased a bit as well, but nowhere nearly as much, and both nuclear and hydro have changed little. Depending on the fuel mix of your utility, its costs will have increased really a lot (if gas-fired) or close to nothing (hydro, nuclear). I would imagine that State close to Quebec and other hydro producing regions would see smaller hikes; those with predominantly coal smaller increases, and so on.

      But if you look at the graph in my second comment near the top, you see that gas prices had already increased before Katrina, so the impact of the more recent price increases has not been passed through yet. Utilities usually buy at least some of their fuel under medium or long term contracts with prices often fixed from thestart, so they would be somewhat protected from the early increases, but less and less as time goes by.

      In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
      Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

      by Jerome a Paris on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 09:54:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Different parties holding governers office too (none)
      I can't do it here, but it would be interesting to do a plot of party affiliation of the governor (who has lot of power over make-up/direction of the state utility regulatory agency) vs size of proposed rate increase.

      I wonder if Repug "great leap forward" Central Committee has already sent out memos to repug governors to get on the same page and sing in harmony on energy price increases.

  •  Unlikely (4.00)
    These predictions seem extraordinarily unlikely.  Utility de-regulation in the last two decades or so has assured consumers that they will always get the lowest prices possible.

    "When you starve the beast, you starve the people. And the bathtub was a reference to New Orleans." -- bink

    by bink on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 08:47:17 AM PDT

      •  Pennsylvania may luck out--somewhat (none)
        Generation and transmission rates for many electric utilities are capped for at least awhile longer, and possibly another 5 years for some.  We're still paying around 9.5c/kwh and so far, no hint of any increase (the company did try to void the rate cap some years ago but was rebuffed by the state).

        I don't even want to guess what we'll be paying for propane this year.  I'm figuring at least 50% more than last year at a minimum.

        •  PA is probably relies on coal-based (none)
          based electricity generation, given its large in-state deposits of low sulfur anthracite coal. Thus it is less affected than states that rely on nature gas or oil fired power generation for a significant portion their electrical supply.
        •  PA also has a Dem Governor (none)
          Probably pure coincidence, but I just noticed that most of the states Jerome listed with regulatory commissions  announcing proposed huge energy hikes have Repug governors in charge.
  •  Massachusetts Update (none)
    Keyspan in Boston raised rates by ~66% for natural gas heating
  •  Glad we have a wood stove for primary heat (none)
    an advantage of living in the country.
  •  Pres. Carter (4.00)
    Remember when Pres. Carter had a solar hot water system on the White House and a tax credit for anyone who did the same.  Along comes Pres Reagan and take off the panels and took away the tax credit..it is time to lay the blame where it belongs on the GOP for our high cost of heat.  Do you realize how much money we would have saved over the last 25 years if all homes had just water heated by solar.
  •  here in western montana (none)
    we had a 30% increase last winter..another 30% not too long ago..and are expecting another here shortly, although I haven't heard any estimates yet....

    I've turned my water heater down to the temperature of my shower (i.e., not using any cold water, no relaxing warm baths..)

    I plan to spend today winterizing the windows

    With the hike last winter, I came to realize that it was cheaper to run those electric oil heaters to supplement the living room or bedroom rather than turn up the thermostat - which I kept at 58 degrees, monday thru friday (and then a balmy 66 on weekends.)  Still had bills over $200, though (and I live in a small 2 bedroom apartment)

    I don't know how I could handle any less heat.  My plants died, and I just finished paying off my winter heating bill in August.  AAAARRRRGGGHHH!

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