Americans should expect to pay a lot more to heat their homes this winter, as prices for most fuels are already at multiyear highs, according to federal energy researchers.
Compared with last winter, households will spend, on average, 54% more for propane, 43% more for home heating oil, 30% more for natural gas and 6% more for electric heating, said the Energy Information Administration in its annual Winter Fuels Outlook.
While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts this winter to be colder than the last, Americans will see rising energy bills regardless of the temperatures, EIA said in the winter report, which was included in its October Short-Term Energy Outlook.
“Even when we vary weather expectations, we expect the increase in energy prices as the United States returns to economic growth to mean higher residential energy bills this winter," the agency said.
For example, if this winter is 10% colder than forecast, households relying on natural gas will spend 50% more than last winter. They'll spend 22% more if the winter is 10% warmer than forecast.
For households that heat with electricity, the bill will be 15% higher in a colder-than-forecast winter and 4% higher in a warmer winter.
Meanwhile, the natural gas spot price at Henry Hub continues its yearlong climb. Spot prices are expected to average $5.80 per million British thermal units during the fourth quarter, which is $1.80 higher than last month's forecast.
In September, spot prices averaged $5.16/MMBtu, compared to $4.07/MMBtu in August and $3.25/MMBtu during the first half of 2021.
“The rising prices in recent months reflect U.S. natural gas inventory levels that are below the five-year average and continuing demand for natural gas for power generation use at relatively high prices," the report said.
Henry Hub spot prices are expected to reach a monthly average peak of $5.90/MMBtu in early 2022 and then generally fall throughout the year, averaging $4.01/MMBtu.
As a result of higher natural gas prices, EIA continues to forecast a lower share of electricity generation coming from the fuel. It's expected to be 36% in 2021 and 35% in 2022, compared to 39% last year.
Consequently, coal is expected to make up a larger part of the generation portfolio, rising from 20% in 2020 to about 24% in 2021 and 23% in 2022.
For renewable energy sources, new solar and wind generating capacity are offset somewhat by reduced generation from hydropower this year, resulting in the forecast share of all renewables in U.S. electricity generation to average 20% in 2021, about the same as last year. In 2022, the share is forecast to rise to 22%.