With energy costs expected to skyrocket in the coming months, Massachusetts officials are looking for ways to help residents keep their homes heated and their lights on this winter.
Earlier this week, National Grid announced that the typical residential electric customer can expect a monthly bill of $293 this winter, compared to $179 last year. Both National Grid and Eversource also forecast higher gas bills, with the companies pointing to a spike in natural gas prices as the cause.
“Everybody should be aware that, this winter, Massachusetts is more like Europe than we are from other states because we’re at the end of our national gas pipeline system,” Judy Chang, undersecretary of energy and climate solutions in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said Tuesday.
At best, this winter will be “a very high-cost energy winter,” she said, according to State House News Service.
Massachusetts is waiting to hear back from the Biden administration about what the federal government can do “to enhance our ability to get through the winter, both in terms of having the power available to heat their homes but also hoping to deal with some of the price issues,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday, according to the news service.
Earlier this month, Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren joined members of New England’s Senate delegation in calling on President Joe Biden to lower energy costs by releasing oil from the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve.
Increased energy prices “can have a very real effect on the ability of many New England families to keep their homes at a safe temperature this winter,” the senators wrote in a joint letter. “No family should have to make the decision between paying their bill to keep their children warm, putting food on the table, and keeping the lights on.”
Attorney General Maura Healey’s office convened utility companies, state administrators, and regulators on Wednesday, according to MassLive.
Healey spokeswoman Chloe Gotsis said in a statement provided to Boston.com earlier this week that the AG’s office is exploring all possible options to alleviate the burden of higher energy costs.
In the meantime, Healey urged Massachusetts residents to contact their utility companies about creating payment plans, according to MassLive. She also suggested Massachusetts could follow New Hampshire’s lead, expanding fuel assistance through a mix of federal and state funds, according to the news outlet.
Massachusetts offers the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps eligible households pay a portion of their winter heating bills.
Secretary of State William Galvin proposed that the Legislature create a home heating oil reserve of up to $50 million to help middle and low-income residents, to be controlled by the state Treasury, according to State House News Service.
“If prices remain high, this could be catastrophic for the working poor and middle-class families who are already struggling to keep up with all of the other issues caused by inflation,” Galvin said. “Purchasing oil right now is a risk that many private companies aren’t willing to take, but it’s a risk the state needs to take to ensure our residents can survive the winter.”
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