My bill has been much higher than expected this winter. Why does it seem so much higher than previous winters and is there payment assistance available?
With inflation affecting many of the items we are buying and goods we are using right now, it’s probably no surprise that it also is affecting the cost of natural gas and electricity, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating. We get it.
So, let’s break down some of the reasons people have seen their bill increase this winter. Let’s also look at ways to help offset the increase.
Power Supply Cost Recovery (PSCR) charge – This is a charge electric customers see on their monthly bill. Think of it as the cost associated with generating and moving electricity over power lines. The PSCR costs you pay are directly related to the electricity you use and since costs fluctuate, this is how we make sure the cost of the actual product used is covered.
Natural Gas rate and Gas Cost Recovery (GCR) charge – In November natural gas customers saw an increase from a new rate as well as an increase in the Gas Cost Recovery (GCR) charge. The increased rate will allow us to continue to modernize our natural gas system, making it even more safe, clean and reliable for our natural gas customers. We’re doing that by replacing vintage pipes, making critical upgrades to reduce emissions of methane — a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide — and implementing new technology and processes.
The GCR is the commodity cost; this is a pass-through cost, meaning you pay what we pay for the natural gas. This doesn’t include any kind of mark-up. The GCR increase is due to rising natural gas prices caused by a variety of global economic factors.
Cold weather –Why does your bill seem to get so much higher in the winter? The simple answer is the colder the weather, the more your furnace works to warm your house. Even if you keep your thermostat at the same temperature – it still runs longer to heat your home, increasing use and cost. And even if you’re one of those people who turn their furnace down when you leave the house, we tend to spend more time at home during the winter, so the furnace is working more often.
It’s important to remember while the impacts won’t be the same for everyone, it is not just our customers, or even Michigan residents that are experiencing the cost increase. Energy costs are likely to increase across the U.S. The National Energy Assistance Directors Association estimated home heating costs will rise more than 17% this winter.
So, that’s the answer to the question about higher bills this winter in a nutshell – or a whole pile of nutshells (we know, energy is complicated). The good news is there are things we are doing at Consumers Energy to help reduce costs and there are things you can do at your own home to help control your costs, too.
Here’s what we’re doing. We buy most of the natural gas for your home and business during the off-peak months. In other words, much of the gas you’ll use to heat your homes this winter was purchased when demand was low, and therefore prices were cheaper, during the summer months. We then use our vast underground storage fields to store the gas until it’s needed this winter.
This next part is a partnership of sorts. Check out our blog to learn how to help keep your energy use and costs down without sacrificing your comfort. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Have your heating system tuned and inspected by a service professional. Heat losses from a poorly maintained system can range between 1-2 percent a year.
- Clean or replace your furnace filter often during the heating season. If your furnace can “breathe” more easily, it will use less energy.
- Dial your thermostat down at night and add an extra blanket for warmth.
- Make sure your attic, basement, garage and exterior doors are closed to prevent cold drafts from getting in and heat from getting out.
- Turn that ceiling fan on! Ceiling fans set at a slow speed push warm air away from the ceiling and move it around the room without creating a chilling breeze.
While taking steps to winterproof your home or reduce your use can be helpful, there are times when your bill still might exceed your monthly budget. We understand and we are here to help with a variety of programs and payment arrangements.
Have questions about your bill? For details on your energy costs, tips on ways to save or information on available assistance visit ConsumersEnergy.com/ColdWeather.
To learn more about available assistance options through Consumers Energy and community resources like 2-1-1 this winter check out our blog.
As always, you can call us directly at 800-477-5050 to discuss what option works best for your situation.
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