Why your NYSEG bill is so high, and what you can do about it


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Many NYSEG customers who opened their electricity bills this month had a shock; their bills were double and in some cases triple the amount they typically owe. NYSEG representatives attribute the increase to an increase in the cost of fuels used to produce electricity; specifically, natural gas.

Michael Jamison, Interim Director of Corporate Communications for AvanGrid, the parent company of NYSEG, said, “on the wholesale market where we buy our electricity, prices are up, and that has a lot to do with the rising costs of natural gas.” Jamison noted that the surge in pricing is not specific to our area, but rather is being felt by customers across the United States and around the world. In Europe, for example, Jamison said that natural gas prices are up 500%.

New York State Senator Pete Harckham, who represents New York’s 40th district, which includes North Salem, said Wednesday that in the past three days his office had received over 75 complaints from residents about their bills.

How to read your NYSEG bill

“It is simply wrong for a utility company to issue bills that include considerable increases for customer service without an advance warning or satisfactory explanation of what’s going on,” said Harckham in a written statement. “With all the ways in which a utility can communicate to its customers, there is no excuse to stun and agitate people with these kinds of increases.”

Jamison pushed back against Harckham’s characterization, saying that NYSEG had used every available channel of communication to warn consumers about the coming price increases. “We’ve been working hard since before the winter period to communicate with not just customers but all stakeholders,” he said, noting the company had provided information in customers' bills and posted on social media and blogs.  "We’ve tried to draw attention to it. It’s tough to get customers to pay attention until they get their bill," Jamison said.

In late November, the New York State Department of Public Service issued information warning customers that electric and natural gas bills were expected to be higher for the 2021-2022 winter season. The Department estimated that natural gas bills would be about 21% higher than last year.

North Salem resident Janet O’Laughlin said that her bill for January usage was more than double the amount she typically pays. After digging into her bill in detail, O’Laughlin discovered that she has a day-night meter. Day-night meters have traditionally been billed as a way for consumers to save on electricity bills by charging lower rates per kilowatt hour during off-peak times, such as overnight. The meters, however, are at the mercy of market prices, which Jamison said are updated every six minutes by New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), an Albany-based organization responsible for managing the state’s electric grid and wholesale marketplace. Events such as outages can significantly impact supply charges on an hour-by-hour basis.

“When you’re on the day-night plan, your cost will follow what’s happening in real time,” Jamison explained, adding that NYSEG customers on residential plans are less likely to see wild fluctuations in billing because the company does a lot of forecasting in order to buffer for market changes. “If there’s a change, you’ll see that difference over the course of a few months,” he said. “But on a day-night meter, the difference will be more immediate.”

Lucas said about 10% of North Salem residents are on a day-night meter. Those wishing to switch to a residential meter are urged to call NYSEG. 

How you can help reduce your energy bills:

  • Shop for a supplier (otherwise known as an ESCO) - some energy supply companies will lock in pricing or provide assurances on pricing. Click here for a list of suppliers.
  • Install programmable thermostats - products such as the Nest thermostat allow you to program when your heat goes up or down depending on when you’re home or away
  • Maintain your furnace - Inefficient and dirty furnaces can eat up a lot of energy. Having your furnace inspected every year and keeping it in good working condition can save you energy and cut down on your bill
  • Lower your thermostat - Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable for you. Every degree above 68 can use about 3% more energy.
  • Switch to LED lighting - LED lighting uses a lot less energy than standard lightbulbs

What to do if you’re having trouble paying your bill right now:

  • New York State’s Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) - helps low-income people pay the cost of heating their homes. Click here for more info
  • Energy assistance program - bill credits are available to any customer receiving HEAP benefits; some EAP participants will be able to apply for the EAP arrears forgiveness program
  • Budget billing - this NYSEG program calculates your yearly bill based on last year's electricity and/or natural gas use and then divides your yearly bill into 12 equal payments
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