By Eileen O'Grady in Reuters March 7 2014
(Reuters) - Natural gas pipelines and power utilities across the
United States struggled for several weeks to keep lights on and
homes warm through the coldest winter in decades, but it may take
many months for the cost and the fallout of the so-called "polar
vortex" to work through the energy chain.
As sub-freezing temperatures spread in January and February,
spot natural gas prices spiked at many gas delivery points in the
Midwest, Northeast and New York, pushing wholesale power prices
above $100 per megawatt-hour for days at a time.
Customers will soon receive gas and electric bills, reflecting
the higher cost of gas in January.
In unregulated power markets, January bills will present a
"double whammy," said Nick Akins, chief executive of American
Electric Power Co, one of the largest U.S. electric utilities that
generates and delivers power to 5 million customers in 11
"The energy price took off and they are going to get a big
surprise since they are using more electricity to start with and
prices went way up," Akins said.
In regulated markets, utilities may be able to pass on higher
fuel costs quickly. Elsewhere, higher winter gas prices may not be
seen until utilities seek regulatory approval later this year.
Across the country, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration said the 2013-2014 winter season so far has been 4
percent colder than normal and 12 percent colder than last
While painful, those utility bills represent a sliver of the
potential cost and impact of the harsh winter, gas and power
industry executives said at the...