Updated: 01/30/2014 2:01 AM
Created: 01/30/2014 2:00 AM WNYT.com
By: Dan Levy
ALBANY - If you haven't gotten your monthly bill yet from National Grid, you might want to brace yourself for a shock when you do get it.
With cold weather mercilessly holding its grip on the northeast, heating costs have gone up dramatically, and utility customers are feeling the discomfort, if not in their homes, then in their wallets.
National Grid says customers can expect to see 20% to 30% spikes on their winter electric bills. The company also says if you're experiencing heating bill hardships, don't worry about it -- at least not yet.
The New York Public Service Commission has granted permission to allow National Grid customers to have their winter utility bills deferred until later in the year, when bills should be considerably lower.
When it comes to electrical infrastructure and the conveyance of power, many people find themselves powerless to pay for the inevitable variables of supply and demand.
After cooling down from a Zumba class in Albany on Wednesday night, Shay Allen was headed home to East Greenbush where it's also quite cool inside her apartment.
"I have to go home and turn my heat on because I turned it off when I left this morning because I can't afford the bill," Allen said.
After opening her most recent electric bill a few weeks ago, Allen's December bill totaled $255, a 49% increase over her previous month's statement of $171.
Much of her increase is due to increased electrical usage because of the harshly cold weather conditions this winter, but according to National Grid, some of the spike can be attributed to the increased cost of electricity itself.
Power providers are saddled with higher costs for the natural gas they use to manufacture electricity. That's the cost being passed along to utility customers, according to National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella.
Stella says National Grid wants to make it as easy as they can for customers, which is why customers will see a credit on their upcoming bills, allowing them a deferment on paying winter electricity costs later in the spring or summer when bills should be a lot lower.
"Electric supply goes up and down very quickly," Stella says, "What we hope to see here is that we'll get through these colder weeks and once the weather calms down, gets warmer, those electric rates will come down."
Anders Rivera of Albany says the deferment plan will make a big difference to his family.
"I think if there's something that can be worked out over the warmer periods of the year, I think it'll be great not only for National Grid but for the community we live in."
To further manage your electric bill, National Grid is urging customers to cut back on their energy use.
In addition, customers can enroll in a balanced billing option, meaning the company estimates your entire annual electricity costs and divides it into twelve equal monthly payments. That way there'll be no surprises during cold winters or other periods of heavy useage.