At this time last year, heating prices were plunging across the state. As the winter approaches in upstate New York, residents are going to find the price ball bouncing back up.
According to Patrick Stella, a spokesman for National Grid, the utility is expecting a slight increase in heating bills across upstate New York. Last year, a typical residential customer who would use about 712 therms from November to March would have paid about $730. This year, National Grid is projecting a cost of $760 per customer for the same usage and heating season.
Heating prices dropped nearly 30 percent last year, as of Oct. 4, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority reported statewide home heating oil prices averaged $2.97 per gallon, up from $2.57, a 15.4 percent change.
The Shepard Oil facility in the Johnstown Industrial Park is shown Thursday.
The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo
Dave Karpinski, president of the Sacandaga Group, and his father, Stan, are shown near a propane tank in this photo.
In the Capital Region, which includes Fulton and Montgomery counties, oil prices have risen to $2.82 per gallon from $2.40 at this time last year, a 17.7 percent spike. Conversely, heating prices dropped more than 30 percent last year from 2008 in the Capital Region.
According to the websites of Shepard Oil in Johnstown and Midnight Oil in Broadalbin, heating oil was listed at $2.79 per gallon as of Thursday.
The North Country, which includes Hamilton County, saw a 13.9 percent increase as the average price rose from $2.91 from $2.55 per gallon.
NYSERDA reported natural gas costing a statewide average of $20 per cubic feet in July, up from $18.32 in 2009.
National Grid purchases natural gas in three ways, Stella said. It is purchased at market price and at a storage price. He also said the utility also buys a portion at a predicted future price.
"We purchase it in those three ways to mitigate the volatile market," he said. "That way we're not paying just the market price. We do that to cushion the customer against a large change in market price."
Propane costs also are up throughout the Capital Region, as prices have risen 11.2 percent to an average of $2.01, an increase of 30 cents per gallon. Kerosene prices have risen 9.9 percent since last year.
An organization, the Sacandaga Group, which was founded by Dave Karpinski and his father, Stan, in 1998, found a way to save propane users money.
According to the group's website - www.sacandagagroup.com - the group was formed by neighbors "combining their purchasing power to secure pricing typically reserved for only the largest corporate customers." The group recently secured a contract with Ferrellgas through May 2015 to receive fuel at 40 cents above Ferrellgas' weighted average cost.
"By offering the volume that we do as a group, we're working on a price similar to their largest corporate customers," Sacandaga Group President David Karpinski said Wednesday.
There are a few requirements to be part of the group, however. Users must use propane as their primary heat source, credit must be approved, they must be on a "keep full" plan, which means the oil company decides when to fill up, and must use a minimum of 600 gallons per year. Members of the group also must live within 30 miles of the Great Sacandaga Lake.
As of Tuesday, the group's propane price was $1.83 per gallon, 18 cents less than the average price in the area. Karpinski said most individual residences pay somewhere in the mid-$2 range for their propane if they're buying propane on their own.
"Most are saving about 75 cents per gallon," Karpinski said. "Our members are going to save about $100,000 this year."
Mike Zummo is the business editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.