Despite fairly stable fuel prices, Quad-Citians can expect to pay more to heat their homes than last year, simply because of the weather.
Last year’s unseasonably warm winter spoiled utility customers when they opened their bills. But if this winter returns to normal, those bills could be slightly higher.
“If we see more of a normalized winter, we expect it to be about $107 higher for the average utility customer between Oct. 1 and the end of April,” MidAmerican Energy spokesman Tim Grabinski said. “Fifty percent of our natural gas need is in storage, so that allows us to levelize the price and not be as subject to price changes.”
Grabinski qualified the estimate on utility bills, saying it is all relative to how much natural gas is used. He also promoted the company’s energy-efficiency programs.
Heating bills will rise 20 percent for heating oil customers, 15 percent for natural gas customers,
13 percent for propane customers and 5 percent for electricity customers, according to the Energy Information Administration winter fuels outlook.
Customers who use natural gas, electricity or propane will see lower bills than in a typical winter because of relatively low prices, according to the administration’s report. For example, natural gas should average $10.32 per thousand cubic feet. That’s 0.8 percent higher than last year but 13 percent lower than the five-year average.
Electricity prices will fall 2.3 percent to 11.4 cents per kilowatt hour, the government estimates. Propane prices will fall 8 percent in the Midwest to $2.02 per gallon, according to the the administration.
Over the past two years, federal heating assistance funding has been cut to $3.5 billion from $5.1 billion. The number of households receiving assistance has dropped by 1.1 million over the period, according to the National Energy Assistance Director’s Association.
Last year, Community Action of Eastern Iowa provided $3.8 million in energy assistance to 8,486 utility customers in its four-county area.
Since opening up for applications Oct. 1, Community Action has approved 3,800 applications for the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.
“We actually seem to be a little slow compared to last year, but it probably hasn’t been that cold yet,” said Roxanna Claude, community services director for Community Action.
She’s right. By this time last year, the agency had approved 4,300 applications for assistance. She isn’t sure how much money Community Action will receive for heating assistance.
Application numbers for the LIHEAP program administered by Project NOW in Rock Island were unavailable Monday.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)