As winter approaches, New Hampshire’s heating fuel reserves remain low
Price, market volatility blamed for depleted levels
Heating fuel reserves in New Hampshire remain low, at about 60 percent of the average level over the past five years, according to the state’s Department of Energy.
In August, the U.S. Department of Energy wrote a letter to the six New England governors urging them to shore up home oil supplies to avoid shortages this winter. That hasn’t happened, according to Chris Ellms, the deputy commissioner of the NH Department of Energy.
Ellms said the shortage and high prices are a result of the volatility in global and national energy markets, which include distillate fuels. He said low inventories are a problem across the region, but that the state lacks the authority to direct independent fuel companies to shore up their supplies. The August letter from the U.S. DOE came after New England governors wrote to the department for help in addressing high and volatile global energy prices.
“It’s a reflection of the financial incentives that have not been aligned for them to stock up,” Ellms said. “Looking forward, futures prices have seemed more economically advantageous, so holding inventory would be more of a risk.”
The state expects inventories to increase as heating season begins ramping up in December, and Ellms said the state is not concerned about shortages. Cost could be an issue, with home heating expenses projected to dramatically increase this winter, according to an October forecast from the Energy Information Administration.
The price of home heating oil could rise by 27 percent, given the forecast of slightly colder weather than last winter, according to the report. Natural gas could go up by around 28 percent and propane by 5 percent.
Ellms said the department is encouraging residents who qualify for fuel assistance to apply through their local Community Action Program agencies. Those who haven’t qualified before may be eligible this year because of additional state relief funding. Those who aren’t eligible can contact their fuel vendors to see if they offer payment plans or budget billing. In the long term, energy efficiency efforts are another way to save on heating, Ellms said.
This story was originally produced by the New Hampshire Bulletin, an independent local newsroom that allows NH Business Review and other outlets to republish its reporting.