As reported in Christian Science Monitor

By             , Staff writer / January 8, 2014

The polar vortex gripping the nation is as unpleasant for utilities and grid operators as it is for you. What does the polar vortex mean for your next utility bill?

What happens when much of the nation simultaneously reaches for the thermostat and turns up the heat? Energy prices rise.

With Americans shivering through a “polar vortex,” utilities and grid operators are scrambling to meet demand amid record low temperatures. A stressed power grid and constrained natural gas pipelines are already pushing up the price of electricity and natural gas on wholesale markets.

The good news is that consumers are relatively insulated from the polar vortex’s temporary price shocks (besides the obvious cost increase of turning the heat up for a prolonged period). The bad news is that if this is the first polar vortex of many to come, that prolonged grid strain and need for new infrastructure will almost certainly make its way into the bottom line of your monthly utility bill.

“Most retail customers are set up through regulated natural gas rates for this reason – so that short-term spikes in the spot price don’t automatically flow through,” says M. Tyson Brown, statistician at the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). “To the extent that this is a long-term trend – that really affects the price people pay.” Read the rest of this entry »