ST. LOUIS — If your wallet is still aching from last winter's heating bills, you might want to start saving up for this year in Missouri.
Supply and demand dictate energy prices, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Demand for energy has increased as business and leisure travel returned to pre-pandemic levels, but supplies remained limited due to the scarcity of materials and workers as well as the global energy shortage.
The National Energy Assistance Directors' Association projected major energy price increases for the second heating season in a row. Compared to the 2021-2022 heating season, natural gas costs are expected to go up by 34.4% and electricity up by 6.9%.
Scott Weitzel, Spire Energy's Vice President of Regulatory and Government Affairs, said they aren't nailing down an exact number of what they expect the increase to be because of how unpredictable the market has been.
He said they are hopeful customers in St. Louis will be under that 34% mark.
"Luckily, here in the St. Louis area on the east side of the state, we have the lowest natural gas prices in the state and the bi-state region. That's currently what our customers are paying now, so any increase will be starting from a lower end than other companies," Weitzel said.
Either way, though, be prepared for a higher energy bill this winter.
"Higher natural gas costs across the world — largely driven by the conflict in Europe — are impacting energy prices, and there will be higher bills this winter heating season," Spire Energy spokesperson Jason Merrill said.
Weitzel added that a lot of the increase has to do with what's happening on the global stage.
"The war in Ukraine has caused energy prices to increase and that has impacted our domestic pricing of natural gas," he said.
The more expensive gas bills could come long before snow touches the ground in Missouri.
"As we sit here today, customers in Missouri have not seen these increases yet," Merrill said. "However, we will be filing a Purchased Gas Adjustment with the state (Public Services Commission) that reflects those increases some time in October. At this point, we can’t say what the specific increase will be — the market still continues to fluctuate — but it will be higher."
According to Weitzel, the good news is, the high prices should be temporary.
"Market indications show that natural gas is decreasing, come April of 2023, back to more normal levels, so we're hopeful for that," he said.
Before you choose to shiver in your home, Weitzel wants you to know, you're not alone.
"I really want our customers to know that if they're noticing their gas bills or if there's issues, to contact Spire. We're here to help and we've got about a dozen tools to help our customers," he said.
If you heat your home with electricity, however, Ameren Missouri told 5 On Your Side that bills will likely decrease for its customers as the weather gets colder.
"Ameren Missouri base electric rates (on a cents-per-kilowatt-hour basis) are actually poised to decrease as we shift from summer rates at the end of September," the company said in a statement.
Most St. Louis customers use natural gas to heat their homes, so their electric bills might not follow the same upward trend as other energy bills.
Save money on energy bills
Ameren offered the following tips to help customers save money this winter:
- Unplug or turn off unnecessary appliances.
- Avoid using larger appliances, such as ovens or clothes dryers.
- Reduce the temperature setting on electric hot water heaters.
Spire Energy offered the following tips for customers to save a little money:
- Cover drafty windows with drapes or shades.
- Find and seal any leaks where air is coming in.
- Replace your furnace filter once a month or as needed, and have your furnace serviced once a year to keep your system operating efficiently.
- Always keep clutter away from heaters and radiators, so the warm air can flow freely.
Apply for energy assistance
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is a federal program that assists qualified families in paying energy bills, including electricity, natural gas, propane, fuel, oil or wood.
If you're an Illinois resident, click/tap here to learn eligibility requirements and how to apply for assistance.
If you're a Missouri resident, click/tap here to learn eligibility requirements and how to apply.
Spire Energy also has many programs available to help customers with their bills, if they are struggling.
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