National Grid charges extra for mild winter

Utilities this spring are charging consumers extra because of the mild winter.

If you've taken a hard look at your utility bill lately, you may see such a charge listed under "delivery services." On National Grid bills it's called the "Adjustment for Changes from Normal Weather."

For most consumers the charge amounts to a few extra dollars depending on the amount of gas they use or didn't use.

According to the Public Service Commission, the "normal weather adjustment charge" has been allowed since the '70's and is designed to ensure that the utility has adequate revenue to provide natural gas service to its customers. PSC Spokesman Jim Denn says it's a "two way street" for consumers. "It is intended to limit the negative impact of large weather variations to the utility." Denn told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon. He explained, "As you can imagine, the utility might take in more money because people are using their heat more than they might otherwise need to run the system and the inverse is true during warm weather. The utility might not take in enough money because people aren't using their heat to run the cost of the system."

Denn says during colder than normal winters, the consumer benefits by receiving a credit because the utilities were taking in more revenue than needed for its delivery charge. During mild winters, utilities can impose an extra charge to make up for a loss in revenue.

The charge is based on a measurement of temperatures over a 30 year period to come up with an average temperature for a typical six month winter season.

National Grid spokesperson Virginia Limmiatis says consumers benefit from the weather normalization adjustment. "The idea is it tempers the bill outcome every month during the heating season so there's no extreme price hike during a cold season during a warmer season.

Limmiatis provided CNY Central with a comparison of last year's heating season with this year's. She says, last year the average customer used 730 therms of natural gas while this year the average was 566 therms. She said there was a 26 percent decrease in gas usage which saved consumers an average of $200 on their heating bills. Last year, customers received an average .50 cent credit under the weather normalization adjustment, while this year they're paying an average of $9.13 extra.

Denn says the weather normalization adjustment should not discourage people from conservation or making their homes more energy efficient.