Consumers will likely pay less to heat their homes this winter compared to last year because of warmer forecast temperatures across much of the country, according to federal energy officials.
“For the average U.S. household, EIA expects that both natural gas and electricity bills will decline by 1%, home heating oil by 4%, and propane by 15%,” according to the Energy Information Administration’s Winter Fuels Outlook released Oct. 8.
Steve Nalley, EIA’s deputy administrator, emphasized that changes can vary by fuel and region.
“As recent winters have demonstrated, weather can be very unpredictable, and actual weather outcomes play the most important role in determining the amount consumers spend on heating fuel over the course of a winter,” said Nalley during an Oct. 8 webinar.
Each October, the EIA releases the Winter Fuels Outlook in conjunction with the monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook.
EIA bases forecasts of heating degree days—a measure that quantifies demand for energy needed to heat a building—on information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For this winter season, which runs October through March, EIA expects 4% fewer heating degree days than last year.
Nearly half of all U.S. households heat with natural gas, and EIA expects they will spend about $580 this winter, compared to $588 last year. Households relying on electricity will spend an average of $1,162 this winter, compared to $1,177 last year. For heating oil, costs are expected to average $1,501, compared to $1,570 last year. Propane-dependent households in the Northeast and Midwest—EIA tracks only two regions—can expect to pay $1,658 and $1,131, respectively, compared to $1,886 and $1,367 last year.
In its Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA projects total U.S. coal production to fall to 159 million short tons (MMst) in the fourth quarter of 2019, a decline of 34 MMst (17%) from the same period last year. Coal production is expected to decline by 11% in 2020, EIA said.
“Declining coal demand and related bankruptcies, ownership changes, and sudden mine closures have contributed to a fluctuating production environment in the Western region (largely the Powder River Basin), which produces more than half of the U.S. coal supply,” the report said.