(WXYZ) — With the winter months approaching and gas prices increasing, people across the U.S. are concerned about rising heating bills.
In fact, nearly half of households across the country rely on natural gas for heat, and as per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average cost for those homes is expected to rise by 30% to $746 for October-to-March compared to the same period last year.
The culprit is the global price surge for oil and gas due to the pandemic.
DTE Energy says globally rates over the last few months have nearly doubled, though not for their customers.
"Now that we are coming out a pandemic, much like with a lot of good and services, demand is ramping up really quickly and we are seeing supply trying to catch up," said Dan Brudzynski DTE Energy Vice president of Gas Sales & Supply.
But Dan Scripps from the Michigan Public Service Commission says Michiganders won’t have to empty out their pockets to stay warm. Thanks to the state’s gas storage capabilities, utility companies won’t have to hike up prices.
"About half the gas we use in Michigan is actually bought during the summer and stored as opposed to the just-in-time prices that expose us to more of the market trends," said Scripps.
Consumers Energy’s RoNeisha Mullen says the storage of natural gas will also help roll over savings to customers.
"We have 15 underground storage facilities with about 1,000 wells totaling around a 149 billion cubic feet of storage gas capacities," said Mullen.
Brudzynski says "if we have really really cold days, we are able to dip into storage and pull it out and put it back when we don’t need it."
DTE also says its customers will not only see stable prices this winter, but the company has already started prepping for next season.
"So we are about 65% locked in for next winter already at lower prices," said Brudzynski.
When asked if utility would be able to increase rates if a worst-case scenario occurs, Scripps said "one of the things we have to do as a commission is look at the law, which allows the utility companies to recover what they spent, plus the opportunity to earn a profit, I will tell you that we are very cognizant of the challenges by customers, especially those already struggling."
The commission is also reminding people that there are various assistance programs for families that are having trouble affording their heating bills. They can reach out to the MPSC or their utility company.