In Wake of Winter Storms and Very Cold Temperatures, Heating Fuel Prices Continue Climbing

January 7, 2014

Augusta, Maine – The Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) conducted its weekly heating fuel price survey on Monday, January 6, 2014, and found the current statewide average cash price for No. 2 heating oil was $3.81 per gallon, up another four cents from last week. The average statewide price for kerosene is also up four cents, to $4.20 per gallon. Propane prices, statewide, continue to rise significantly; this week’s average statewide price (for heating customers) is up another eleven cents, to $3.17 per gallon. Heating fuel prices have risen 28 cents (heating oil), 26 cents (k-1), and 52 cents (propane) per gallon since the heating season began in October. Last year at this time, heating oil averaged $3.69 per gallon; kerosene, $4.13, and propane, $2.71.

Heating fuel prices in general rise as demand increases; our below average temperatures, several winter storms, and power outages have resulted in higher demand than usual. As the chart below illustrates, heating degree days have been above average in two of the last three months, and 28% higher in December. When heating degree days rise significantly above average, so does the demand for fuel to heat homes and workplaces.

Monthly Degree Day Comparison (Station: AUG View Map)

Base Year (2012) Comparison Year (2013) Comparison Percentages
Month HDD CDD TDD HDD CDD TDD HDD CDD TDD
October 256 7 263 285 8 293 11% 11%
November 725 0 725 726 1 727 0% 0%
December 940 0 940 1207 0 1207 28% 28%

Propane supplies continue to be very tight in Maine. Rail bottlenecks have delayed shipments, and the combination of cold temperatures, winter storms, and power outages have increased demand. The result is that many dealers are having difficulty obtaining product to service their customers. “Propane supplies will continue to be tight all season, but have been especially severe these last couple of weeks,” stated Energy Office Director Patrick Woodcock. “Additional supplies are arriving in the state this week, which should provide some breathing room for dealers struggling to keep their customers’ tanks filled. This additional supply comes at a premium and will exacerbate what has already been an expensive winter for Maine families. At the same time, there are resources available to invest in modern heating equipment such as heat pumps and wood pellet systems, as well as install energy efficiency measures. All Mainers should assess how they can lower their heating costs by visiting www.efficiencymaine.com.”

Using this week’s average heating oil price ($3.81) and converting to a common heating unit value (million Btu), the price of fuel oil is $27.47. This compares with an equivalent heating unit value for natural gas of $15.50 (at $1.55/therm); propane, $34.81 (at $3.17/gallon); kerosene $31.11 (at $4.20/gallon); wood pellets, $14.67 (at $242/ton); cord wood, $11.36 (at $250/cord) and electricity, $43.96 (at 15 cents per kwh). These fuel-only prices do not take into account the type of heating system, nor its efficiency. For example, the electricity cost is for traditional baseboard heat. Other electric heating technologies, such as heat pumps and electric thermal storage (ETS), may offer consumers energy savings. Cold climate heat pumps, a recent technological advancement, are much more efficient than baseboard electric heat, so total energy costs are lower than many other types of heating fuels. ETS offers savings by utilizing off-peak electric rates, available in many areas of the state.

The Energy Office has a calculator on its web site that allows consumers to obtain more detailed estimates of home heating costs, and the price impacts of various types of fuel, heating systems and heating appliances. Heating costs vary considerably from home to home. The home heating calculator can assist homeowners in finding the best heating option for their home, location, lifestyle, and budget http://www.maine.gov/energy/index.html

As of January 6, 2014


Heating Oil

Statewide

Southwest

Central

Eastern

Western

Northern

Average

3.81

3.82

3.80

3.82

3.77

3.87

High

4.06

4.00

4.06

3.96

3.90

3.95

Low

3.62

3.65

3.70

3.62

3.65

3.85

Kerosene

4.20

4.20

4.21

4.21

4.16

4.26

Propane

3.17

3.20

3.20

3.14

3.06

3.28

It is important to note that the price for heating oil is a statewide average, and that prices in a given geographic region of the state may be considerably higher or lower than this average. This week, within the Energy Office sample, the highest heating oil price ($4.06) was found in one region in the state, and the lowest heating oil price ($3.58) was also recorded in only one region. Also, the statewide average price for propane is based on a use of at least 900 gallons a year. Households using propane just for cooking or hot water generally pay a higher per gallon price. The table above provides current Maine cash prices in dollars rounded to the nearest penny.

Efficiency Maine Trust links Maine homeowners and businesses with qualified, certified contractors who provide access to energy improvement options. For program details call 866-376-2463 or visit www.efficiencymaine.com.

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For Immediate Release

Contact:
Lisa Smith
(207) 624-7445
lisa.j.smith@maine.gov