It’s not just record-low temperatures giving consumers chills during this week’s winter storms and wild weather. The cold weather brings with it reminders of last year’s regional power outages and spikes in electricity and heating costs for many New England, New York, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest residents. Part of the price spikes were attributable to a lack of adequate pipeline infrastructure to move natural gas to areas of demand. 

ISO New England, the region’s grid operator, made preparations for potential power outages caused by heavy winter storms, snow, and damaging winds. E&E Newswire reports that “National Grid U.S., which provides electricity and/or natural gas service in portions of New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, told customers on Twitter that it had crews on hand to restore power outages or damage to the natural gas network.”

Infrastructure deficiencies will continue to make power supplies uncertain during periods of peak demand, like during winter storms, until policymakers decide to support private investment in new natural gas pipelines. Critical infrastructure projects around the country continue to be opposed by a vocal minority of elected officials and anti-development groups and while consumers get stuck with seasonal sticker shock. For example, in August, Massachusetts legislators delayed action on a measure that would have allowed the state to work with other New England states to develop a reliable gas pipeline system. 

Legislators must move forward on projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the Southeast, the New Market Project in New York, and the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Energy Direct in New England. These projects will also create thousands jobs and millions in tax revenue while bringing much-needed supplies of clean burning energy.

So what can consumers do to help blunt price spikes from winter storms until policymakers decide to move forward on critical infrastructure projects? Here are some tips to save energy this winter:

  1. Turn down the heat when no one will be home. It may be tempting to come home to a toasty warm house, but by turning back your thermostat for 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save about 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill.
  2. Make sure to seal leaks and gaps in unfurnished spaces like cupboards and closets. The same goes for chimneys and recessed lighting.
  3. If your house has a fireplace, be sure to check the snugness of the flue damper and keep it closed when not in use. The Department of Energy also suggests that consumers “purchase grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.”
  4. Draw back the blinds on south-facing windows and take advantage of natural sunlight to heat and warm rooms during the day.
  5. Change your air filter regularly during high use times in the winter and summer. Energy Star recommends doing so at least every three months to keep from overburdening your heating and cooling system with excess dust and dirt.