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Will Vt. consumers get burned by surging energy prices? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Will Vt. consumers get burned by surging energy prices?

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

A new report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finds that New England will pay more to stay warm this winter. Wholesale electricity rates are forecast to rise by 52 percent and natural gas prices are expected to double compared to last year's.

University of Vermont Assistant Engineering Professor Paul Hines says extra cost for utilities could be passed on to consumers.

"But it's probably not something consumers would see overnight. It would be something you hear about in the news that utilities are having to pay higher prices and they might have to go in and get higher rates," Hines said.

"Our power supply strategy actually really helps protect our customers from this," said Dotty Schnure of Green Mountain Power.

Green Mountain Power covers about 80 percent of Vermonters. Schnure says the utility buys less than one-third of its power from the New England market. She says a rate hike is not expected this winter because the company already did its shopping.

"We've made commitments for the vast majority of all the power we need for the next two winters, so we're in good shape," Schnure said.

Hines says most Vermont utilities are likely buffered from the price shock. States outside New England shouldn't need to worry even if they're not protected.

"The rest of the country is going to be experiencing extremely cheap natural gas because of the shale gas explosion around the country," Hines said. "The main problem is there aren't very strong pipes into New England either from the mid-Atlantic region or from Canada."

January and February are still months away. Though the forecast for the power market is not sunny, experts say the only certainty about its future state is that no one knows what it will truly look like.

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