Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) announced that for the upcoming winter heating season, its residential customers who purchase natural gas from BGE can anticipate a decrease of approximately 5 percent in the gas portion of their total bill, when compared to last winter. BGE’s average commodity cost for natural gas is expected to be about 60 cents per therm this winter heating season, compared to 62 cents per therm last winter. For the typical residential customer, this means a total gas bill of approximately $556 for the period beginning Nov. 1, 2011, and ending March 31, 2012, compared to $584 for the same period last winter. This reduction is driven by a projected return-to-normal winter weather conditions, as compared to last winter’s colder-than-normal weather, along with a decline in the projected commodity price for natural gas. If actual conditions differ from these projections, average bills will vary accordingly. Also, an individual customer’s bill will vary depending on the condition of their furnace, and any changes in usage.
BGE purchases and stores approximately 40 percent of its natural gas supply in the summer and purchases another 7 percent at fixed prices. This practice helps limit the impact of any rising prices, which may occur during the colder months when demand is increasing.
BGE’s projection of lower prices this winter may differ from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) recently announced estimate of higher prices because BGE’s projection is specific to BGE’s customers and other data specific to BGE’s Central Maryland service area, while the DOE’s information is based on national data. It is important to note that heating costs for individual households are highly dependent on local weather conditions, market size, the size and energy efficiency of individual homes and heating equipment, and thermostat settings. Variations of these factors will impact heating costs for individual customers.
Residential electric customers who purchase their power from BGE and whose primary heating source is electricity can also expect to pay less to heat their homes during the upcoming winter heating season. BGE’s non-summer weighted average price for electricity this winter is 8.8 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to approximately 10 cents per kilowatt hour last season. For the typical electric residential customer with an electric heat source this means a total electric bill of approximately $1,150 from Nov. 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012, compared to approximately $1,240 during the 2010 — 2011 heating season.
“Although BGE’s commodity costs are declining, customers may also want to consider purchasing natural gas and electricity from third-party suppliers that may offer lower prices or longer fixed-price terms than BGE’s Standard Offer Service,” said Mark D. Case, senior vice president of strategy and regulatory affairs for BGE. “More than 260,000 BGE residential customers are already shopping for electric suppliers and close to 100,000 residential customers are shopping for natural gas suppliers. This represents approximately 24 percent of the utility’s residential electric customers and about 16 percent of our residential gas customers.” A list of qualified residential suppliers can be found at www.bge.com.
Declining commodity prices, combined with the offerings of BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program®, provide customers with many options for reducing their energy bill and better managing energy costs this winter. In addition to rebates for qualifying energy-efficient appliances and price mark-downs on energy-efficient lighting, customers should also consider scheduling a Quick Home Energy Check-Up, which consists of a visual inspection of the home to determine its level of energy efficiency and recommendations for improving its efficiency.
Customers may also want to consider BGE’s Budget Billing program, which evens out payments over a 12-month period so customers are not as impacted by increases in usage triggered by extreme weather conditions.
Despite lower prices and innovative programs, BGE recognizes that there are some customers who may still be challenged to pay their heating bills. For qualifying customers, financial and billing assistance is also available.
“Through energy assistance application events and energy conservation workshops and outreach, BGE has already reached nearly 430,000 customers thus far in 2011,” said Jeannette M. Mills, BGE’s chief customer officer and senior vice president of customer relations and account services. “Other resources available to our customers include our Consumer Reference Book, which is mailed to every residential customer each year and is available online, and the Community Resource Guide, also available online. Additionally, limited-income customers may be eligible for weatherization assistance, including the repair or replacement of inefficient gas furnaces and heat pumps through BGE’s Limited Income Energy Efficiency program.”
BGE reminds customers not to wait until they are in crisis to ask for help but rather to contact their local Office of Home Energy Programs online or by calling 1-800-352-1446 to apply for energy assistance before receiving a turn-off notice or having service denied.
The following are steps that all customers can take to reduce energy consumption and lower heating bills:
- Have the furnace checked by a licensed professional to be sure it is operating efficiently.
- Consider BGE’s Quick Home Energy Check-up or Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.
- Change the furnace filter regularly. A dirty filter forces the furnace to work harder.
- During the winter, for systems other than heat pumps, set thermostats at 68 ºF or lower during the day and 65 ºF at night, if health allows.
- Consider a programmable thermostat, which can save 10-25 percent in energy costs all year when programmed to lower temperatures when no one is home in the winter and higher temperatures when no one is home in summer.
- Install an approved insulation blanket around the water heater and insulate the first three feet of water pipe (keep insulation at least 6 inches from the flue on gas water heaters).
- Wash clothes in cold or warm water and rinse in cold water to reduce water heater usage.
- Caulk and weather strip windows and doors to keep cold air out.
- Go to www.bge.com and www.bgesmartenergy.com for more energy-saving tips.