Cooler nights, less day light and falling leaves are sure signs that the weather is changing across Western New York. As customary in this region, the upcoming winter means plenty of unpredictable weather – a snowstorm here, a quick melt there, hail, rain, ice and everything in-between. The one thing that is certain: Homes will need heat and National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation’s (National Fuel or the Utility) winter heating season bill forecast brings good news and bad news.
The cost of keeping warm this winter, based on the current forecast for the months of November through March, will remain at a record low level. On average, residential heating customers should expect their five-month winter bills to total $497, provided the weather is more typical of a Western New York winter. Last year’s second warmest winter ever on record for this region, with temperatures that were 17.8 percent warmer than normal, resulted in record low customer winter heating season bills that averaged $381. Comparatively, the previous winters from 2014, 2013 and 2012 ranged from $635, $808 and $586 for the five-month periods. As a reminder, last winter Buffalo was without measurable snow until Dec. 17, 2015, a full two weeks later than the previous latest date for the first seasonal snowfall.
"Lower winter heating season bills seem destined to repeat this winter across Western New York," said Karen L. Merkel, spokesperson for National Fuel. "With the exception of last year’s record warm winter, the upcoming winter is forecasted to have the lowest winter heating season bill in the last 17 years, even lower than 2011-12 which featured the region’s warmest winter ever on record with temperatures 22.3 percent warmer than usual. That season’s winter heating season bill averaged $615."
Local demand for natural gas is currently being met by hydraulically fractured shale in neighboring states including Pennsylvania, despite the fact that no shale production is taking place in New York state.
For those needing some help when it comes to heating costs, the federally-funded Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides payment-challenged families and individuals with financial assistance on a first-come, first-served basis, based on income guidelines. HEAP will open across New York state on Nov. 14. Visit www.HEAPhelps.com or contact 1-877-443-2743 to check eligibility.