This story originally appeared in State Impact Pennsylvania.
Energy prices are hitting multi-year highs as we enter a winter that analysts expect will be slightly colder than last year.
But there are options available to help keep heating bills in check.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects households that use natural gas for heat will spend 30 percent more than they spent last winter on average.
About half of Pennsylvania homes use natural gas. More than 40 percent of the state’s electricity comes from gas-fired plants.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission says most utilities will be raising their electric prices on Dec. 1.
To help manage higher bills, the state Office of Consumer Advocate is encouraging people to use simple weatherization methods, like plugging cracks around doors and windows.
It also recommends contacting utility providers to check for assistance eligibility or for options like budget billing, which spreads out costs through the year.
The OCA says people should review their utility contracts and consider switching to a fixed rate plan if they are enrolled in a variable rate.
People can shop for plans at PAPowerSwitch.com.
Some may qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a grant program that awards between $500-$1,500 based on household size.
Fuel costs are high because of global supply and demand pressures that were rattled by the pandemic.
The state’s Independent Fiscal Office says the average price of natural gas in Pennsylvania increased by 187 percent over the last year to reach $3.54 cents per metric million British thermal units. Current forecasts project that prices will stay high in the short term.
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