The Heating Season in Review

April 2, 2014

Augusta, Maine – The Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) conducted its weekly heating fuel price survey on Monday, March 31, 2014, and found the current statewide average cash price for No. 2 heating oil was $3.71 per gallon, down four cents from last week, and nine cents from two weeks ago. The average statewide price for kerosene also decreased nine cents in the last two weeks, to $4.17 per gallon. Propane prices are also lower; the average statewide price for propane (for heating customers) is now $3.40 per gallon, a drop of 2 cents per gallon. Last year at this time, heating oil averaged $3.61 per gallon; kerosene, $4.07, and propane, $2.75.

The beginning of April marks a winding down of the heating season in Maine. Mainers will find themselves consuming less and less fuel in the coming weeks as the temperatures (finally!) begin to rise. As all residents are painfully aware, this heating season was long and difficult, as very low temperatures caused high demand for fuel, and consequently prices soared. The season’s average price per gallon for heating oil finished at $3.71 per gallon, and for propane finished at $3.10 per gallon. This season’s average propane price was the second highest it has ever been since the Energy Information Administration (EIA) began collecting statewide prices in 1990. To put this season’s prices in context, the table below shows the statewide average price of heating oil and propane for the past 5 years.

Average Heating Oil and Propane Prices for Maine (price per gallon) 2009-2014
Heating Season 2013-2014 2012-2013 2011-2012 2010-2011 2009-2010
Heating Oil $3.71 $3.77 $3.75 $3.12 $2.74
Propane $3.10 $2.72 $3.20 $2.93 $2.85

Source: EIA and GEO

As high as these prices are, surprisingly, average prices for the entire season came close to, but did not reach, record highs. And, although it is small consolation to Maine families struggling to heat their homes, prices in Maine for both heating oil and propane were lower than all other New England states (see table below).

New England Season Average Prices Per Gallon for Heating Oil and Propane 2013-2014
State Maine New Hampshire Connecticut Rhode Island Massachusetts Vermont
Heating Oil $3.71 $3.82 $4.15 $4.03 $4.01 $3.76
Propane $3.10 $3.38 $3.37 $4.00 $3.49 $3.73

Source: EIA

The consistently cold temperatures this season were a major factor contributing to high prices. Heating degree days (hdd), an indicator of how cold the season was, show that this winter was, by far, the coldest winter in the last 3 years. The table below shows the heating degree day totals for each month in the heating season for the past 3 years.

Heating Degree Days, Augusta, ME- 2011-2014
October November December January February March Total
2011-2012 458 676 1072 1292 1083 836 5417
2012-2013 420 887 1104 1324 1129 977 5841
2013-2014 454 888 1358 1424 1208 1240 6572

Source: National Climatic Data Center

According to the heating degree data, every month this heating season was the coldest it had been in 3 heating seasons. Overall, this season was 12.5% colder than the 2012-2013 heating season, and 21.3% colder than the 2011-2012 heating season.

Using this week’s average heating oil price ($3.71) and converting to a common heating unit value (million Btu), the price of fuel oil is $26.75. This compares with an equivalent heating unit value for natural gas of $15.50 (at $1.55/therm); propane, $37.23 (at $3.40/gallon); kerosene $30.89 (at $4.17/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 March 31, 2014


Heating Oil

Statewide

Southwest

Central

Eastern

Western

Northern

Average

3.71

3.67

3.78

3.70

3.65

3.81

High

4.10

4.10

3.90

3.88

3.85

3.97

Low

3.40

3.40

3.65

3.40

3.40

3.75

Kerosene

4.17

4.19

4.24

4.15

4.12

4.18

Propane

3.40

3.42

3.52

3.25

3.27

3.63

Please 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 ($4.10) was found in one region in the state, and the lowest heating oil price ($3.40) was recorded in three regions. 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