Why your January NYSEG bill might be higher than expected - WBNG.com: Binghamton-area News, Weather, Sports

Why your January NYSEG bill might be higher than expected

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(WBNG) -- "This is literally a hundred dollars shy of my mortgage payment," said Toni Gilligan of Cincinnatus.

As the January electric bills have been coming in, more and more customers have been opening their bills in shock.

"Oh my God," said Gilligan. "I actually almost wanted to cry and throw up a little bit and I'm like, how is that even possible, we don't use any more or any less [electricity]."

Some of you have reached out to us saying your bills are coming in hundreds of dollars higher than previous bills.

In one NYSEG bill shown to 12 News, on-peak and off-peak supply charges doubled and tripled, respectively, when compared to December.

However, these higher bills aren't just seen by NYSEG customers.

A state-wide increase in natural gas costs during the cold snap in January affected all electric providers in New York State.

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) administers fair, open, and competitive wholesale electricity markets statewide and NYSEG is one of many buyers in the market.

"We run markets every day that match the buyers and sellers of electricity, and those fuel costs get factored in to the markets," said David Flanagan, Media Relations Manager at NYISO.

When the residential demand of heating homes combines with the demand of power plants generating electricity, the cost of natural gas goes up, and those increased costs show up on your bill.

"Markets establish the wholesale cost of electricity, that's the cost that NYSEG pays to provide that commodity to its customers and that wholesale cost is passed through on the utility bill as your supply charge," said Flanagan.

Electric companies like NSYEG don't get a dime from those supply charges when you pay your bill, as supply charges are defined as "what you pay for electricity purchased on your behalf by NYSEG or an ESCO [Energy Services Company]" on the NYSEG website.

"This increase in the market cost of natural gas in the winter months is not unusual, with the markets experiencing price increases in January 2011, 2013 and the 2014 Polar Vortex," said Flanagan.

But the sudden rocketing of electric bills has some consumers uneasy.

"I either have to pay this electric bill or I lose electricity," said Gilligan. "So in some cases I feel like it's a lot of these people are, 'do you feed your family or do you pay your electric bill this month.'"

Some tips for those burdened by a spike in their electric bill have a few options.

Electric companies like NYSEG offer a payment plan that allows you to pay off a bill in portions rather than all at once.

Another long-term option is setting up budget billing through your electricity provider, which bills you on a yearly average, which removes the volatility that comes month-to-month as natural gas prices fluctuate.

More information about the wholesale markets and the relationship between natural gas and electricity costs can be found starting on page 31 of the PDF below from NYISO.

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