Propane market shows signs of stabilizing
Propane prices continue to stabilize, with the average statewide price at $3.02 per gallon. Local prices are “all over the board,” according to Lynn Stringer, Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Coordinator with Douglas County. As of Monday, vendor prices in the county ran the gamut from a low of $3.09 to a high of $3.89.
Prices are expected to decline slowly as propane vendors work through the supply of fuel they purchased when costs were considerably higher, according to Stephanie Marquis with the Wisconsin Department of Administration. But she expects prices will still fluctuate, with cold weather possibly influencing the market.
“We’re not out of the woods in terms of weather yet,” Marquis said.
According to the National Weather Service in Duluth, temperatures in the Northland are expected to dip below zero every night this week. The five-day forecast calls for highs in the single digits above zero during the day and lows in the double digits below zero overnight through the week.
Friday, the state donated half a million dollars to the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund, a statewide, nonprofit charitable organization that provides energy-related crisis assistance. The state funds will be earmarked for citizens at or below 60 percent of the state median income. That will free up private contributions to help citizens who make between 61 and 80 percent of the state median income and do not qualify for traditional low-income energy assistance.
In addition, an agreement was struck Thursday between the state and two utilities companies to allow the state to access more than 117,000 gallons of propane to help address the current shortage. The state will replenish those supplies from We Energies and Madison Gas & Electric over the summer.
Last week, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill that would offer guaranteed loans of up to $2,500 for households reeling from the extraordinary cost of propane. Under the proposal, the two-year loans would be available to borrowers whose household income is no more than 200 percent of the median household income in their county. The bill now goes to the state Senate.
One hitch that Stringer ran into earlier this month has been solved. A wood vendor has stepped up to offer fuel for the handful of Douglas County residents seeking crisis heating money for wood.
“We have somebody on board, which is great for our county,” Stringer said. She hopes to find more wood vendors to add to the county’s list over the summer.
By Friday, more than 1,800 residents had received regular heat assistance benefits; an additional 155 calls for propane crisis funds had been paid. Although the propane crisis funds are nearly gone, the county still has regular crisis and Keep Wisconsin Warm funds available. The heating assistance season runs through May 15. Although calls for help have declined, Stringer expects funds to run out earlier than in past years.
In Douglas County, residents can apply for both regular and crisis energy assistance through the Douglas County Health and Human Services Department by calling 715-395-1304 or the automated line at 715-395-1651. The state hotline can be reached at 866-432-8947.
More information on heating assistance, including income guidelines, is available at www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov.