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Natural gas prices more than double in Northeast Ohio as many brace for more expensive winter

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Posted at 5:31 PM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 19:17:55-04

STREETSBORO, Ohio — On sunny days in August, winter can seem like the last thing on your mind; but that gas bill beginning the fall is expected to look quite a bit different, according to experts.

Data from the Ohio Public Utilities Commission shows the standard rate for natural gas has more than doubled from March of this year.

Above is a graph depicting historical Dominion standard choice offer (SCO) rates.

Streetsboro Mayor Glenn Broska told News 5 the city just wrapped up renegotiating its aggregate natural gas program, which is set to begin impacting customers with their bills in November.

Above is a graph depicting historical Columbia Gas of Ohio standard choice offer (SCO) rates.

“Sometimes people’s memory is short term, and they are seeing their gas bill right now which is virtually nothing,” Broska said. “They’re not thinking if we have a hard winter, this could have a profound impact on what people pay.”

Broska added that based on their previous deal ending, their rate will jump from $2.78 per McF (thousand cubic feet) to around $6.62 per McF.

“We started to research new prices and they were through the roof,” he said.

That’s why instead of signing another multi-year contract, the city opted to just close on a one-year deal with an energy supplier with the hopes prices eventually drop.

“We’re trying our best to get our people the best price we can possibly secure, and right now, that’s it,” Broska said.

It’s not just happening with natural gas prices.

Tony Carter of Bedford Heights watched as his electric usage stayed the same this summer, but his delivery rate changed.

“I was definitely shocked when I saw that my bill was twice the usual amount,” he said.

Carter told News 5 he’s keeping a close eye on his energy expenses moving forward because that small, single line on a bill can make a big difference.

“Be careful with your money and track where your money is going,” he added.

Paul Billups serves as Director of Energy Assistance Services for Step Forward Today, an anti-poverty nonprofit that helps those predominantly in Cuyahoga County and offers energy programs for those looking for relief from electric or natural gas prices.

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“Energy services prices have gone up, so the need has increased dramatically,” he said. “I'm fully anticipating that we're going to see at least a 30% increase in the number of clients who seek assistance. Just in the past 90 days, our phone calls have really jumped dramatically.”

A recent report from Step Forward included research from The Center for Community Solutions which found about 40% of people who responded to a survey indicated they had to choose whether to buy food or pay utility bills on at least one occasion.

Ohioans do have options though.

At Step Forward, that could mean signing up for their Winter crisis or non-emergency programs.

Last month, Governor DeWine signed an executive order which increases the income threshold for Ohio's Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP), from the current 150% of the federal poverty level to 175%.

“With the rising costs of commodities, Ohioans are finding it harder to pay their utility bills,” DeWine said in a release. “By expanding eligibility for utility assistance programs, more Ohioans will get the help they need to pay their bills and keep their homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”

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Homeowners can also switch natural gas suppliers through Ohio's Energy Choice website and compare rates.

Earlier this week, Columbia Gas announced enrollment is open to all customers for the 2022-2023 budget plan, which helps customers avoid higher heating costs in the winter by spreading payments out over the course of the year.

"We're pleased to offer our customers alternative ways to manage their home energy costs," said Vince Parisi, President of Columbia Gas of Ohio, in a news release. "The budget plan lets our customers know exactly what they will pay each month, making it easier to balance personal budgets."

A similar program, as well as other financial assistance options, also exist at Dominion Energy.