American families can expect to spend more to heat their homes this winter as many people continue to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to federal energy officials.
The Energy Information Administration said in its
Winter Fuels Outlook that households using natural gas will spend about 6% more than last year, while those heating with electricity will spend 7% more. Propane bills are expected to rise 12% in the Midwest and 18% in the Northeast.
“Ongoing 2019 novel coronavirus mitigation efforts and more people working and attending school at home will contribute to higher levels of home heating use this winter than in previous years,” the Oct. 6 report said.
Heating bills will also be higher because of colder temperatures this winter.
“U.S. average heating degree days in this forecast are 5% higher than last winter,” the EIA said.
Heating degree days are a measure that quantifies demand for energy needed to heat a building.
Which fuel will cost residents the least to heat their homes this winter? Even though EIA forecast higher natural gas prices this winter compared to last year, it will still cost the least, at $572 per household—compared to $1,221 for heating oil, $1,209 for electricity and at least $1,196 for propane.
Each October, the EIA releases the Winter Fuels Outlook in conjunction with the monthly
Short-Term Energy Outlook. Overall, EIA forecasts 2.2% less electricity consumption in the United States in 2020 compared with 2019.
While this month’s STEO still calls for lower retail sales to the commercial and industrial sectors, the declines aren’t as much as September’s projections. Commercial sector sales are now expected to fall by 6.2%, compared to 6.4% in last month’s report, and industrial sector sales are expected to decrease by 5.6% instead of 6%.
EIA projects a 3% rise in electric retail sales to the residential sector in October compared to 3.5% in last month’s forecast.
“Milder winter temperatures earlier in the year led to lower consumption for space heating, offset by increased summer cooling demand and increased electricity use by more people working and attending classes from home,” the STEO report said.
Looking ahead to 2021, EIA expects total U.S. electricity consumption to be similar to 2020 consumption but somewhat higher during the first quarter because of greater demand for space heating.
Renewable energy continues to be the fastest-growing source of power generation this year, the STEO said. “EIA expects the U.S. electric power sector will add 23.3 gigawatts (GW) of new wind capacity in 2020 and 7.3 GW of new capacity in 2021. Expected utility-scale solar capacity rises by 13.7 GW in 2020 and by 11.8 GW in 2021.”