PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Energy is warning its natural gas customers to prepare for increased heating costs over the next year.

The utility claims the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, on top of inflation, high demand and limited access to domestic natural gas supplies, is to blame for the price hikes.

Rhode Island Energy submitted its annual Gas Cost Recovery and Distribution Adjustment Clause filings to the state’s Public Utilities Commission Thursday for their review.

If approved, the filings would mean the average residential heating customer would see a 15% bill increase compared to their current heating bills. Small business customers under these filings would see a 16% increase, according to Rhode Island Energy.

Donna Durand and Mona Reis, both seniors living on fixed incomes in Pawtucket, said the price hike is forcing them to cut back.

“You try to cut back on food, or are you going to pay your utilities? Especially now the winter’s coming,” Durand said.

Reis said she tries to save money by being as energy efficient as possible.

“I don’t put lights on, I don’t do anything excessive … because you can’t afford to,” Reis said.

In a statement, Rhode Island Energy President Dave Bonenberger said the company recognizes “higher gas prices create additional challenges for Rhode Island families.”

“We encourage customers who may be struggling with higher energy bills to contact us before getting behind,” Bonenberger added.

Rhode Island Energy said customers can minimize the impact of this change by taking steps to save energy and reaching out to the utility for financial assistance.

The R.I. Public Utilities Commission will be reviewing the filings in the coming weeks. If the filings are approved, the rate hikes would take effect Nov. 1.

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