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National Grid forecasts lower natural gas bills this winter

Customers heating bills could drop 3 percent, weather conditions also a factor

— Some people might not welcome the first sighting of snowflakes falling, but lower heating bills could help warm winter spirits.

National Grid is forecasting natural gas heating costs this winter could be reduced by as much as three percent for homeowners during the upcoming chilly season. The company is basing its prediction on current forecasted market conditions. A typical residential heating customer using around 711 therms during a normal heating season from November to March would pay about $644, which is $21 less than last year for the same amount of usage.

William Flaherty, director of customer and community management for National Grid, said the company is encouraged by forecasts for this coming winter.

“We work hard to help customers manage their energy usage and bills, and lower commodity prices are a great way to start,” Flaherty said in a statement. “This year's forecast is the lowest it has been in more than eight years, when 711 therms of usage would have resulted in a bill of nearly $775.”

National Gird purchases natural gas in wholesale markets for its customers and to obtain the best prices, according to company officials. The cost of the purchased gas is then directly passed on to customers with no markup.

The cost of natural gas is one of two components to a heating bill because the delivery of the natural gas also affects the price. The second component represents the cost to deliver the gas to a customer, maintaining the local gas network, providing customer service and emergency response.

National Grid said its delivery price per unit would remain unchanged this winter.

Flaherty said actual usage and weather conditions are key to determining where winter heating bills fall. Severe weather can greatly affect usage and market prices for supply.

Last year was a considerably warmer winter than normal and residential natural gas usage for hearing was “well below average," Flaherty said.

The typical customer in the northeast converting from heating oil to natural gas saves enough carbon dioxide in a year to equal about 15 cars being taken off the road, according to National Grid.

National Gird offers customers gas efficiency programs, which include incentives for installing high-efficiency space heating and water heating equipment, rebates for Energy Star rated programmable thermostats and a high-efficiency heating and water heating program for commercial customers.

Customers with concerns about their ability to pay their bill are encouraged to call National Grid as soon as possible at 1-800-642-4272.

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