O&R is reminding customers that they can spread their energy costs out over 12 months to ease the impact of gas and electric supply prices, which shot higher in January due to the extreme cold weather.

The company also urges customers to take simple energy-saving steps to reduce their bills while staying comfortable.

Natural gas costs climbed in January as the region experienced colder-than-anticipated weather. The high gas prices also are driving up the cost of electricity, since gas is the fuel used in the generation of most electricity in New York.

O&R does not control the price of natural gas or electricity, and makes no profit on either commodity. The company uses a variety of buying strategies to get the best price possible and then provides the energy to customers at cost.

O&R offers a level-payment program to customers called Budget Billing to help ease unpredictable bills from seasonal usage variations. Budget Billing does not reduce the overall energy expense. But, it permits customers to spread out their annual energy expense over a 12-month period and lets customers know ahead of time what their monthly payment will be. After 12 months, the company reconciles the estimates with the customer’s actual energy usage.

O&R estimates that a typical residential gas heating customer using 200 Ccf per month will have a February 2014 bill of $308.64, or $54.19 (21.3 percent) higher than the January 2014 bill of $254.45 for the same usage.

The rise in gas prices is also affecting the electric charges for customers who receive their bills in late January and early February.

A typical residential electric customer using 660 kWh per month will be $7.99 (5.4 percent) higher in February 2014 than January 2014, going from $146.60 to $154.99.

Increased electric and/or gas usage beyond those typical monthly amounts will increase the size of the respective monthly bills.

If a customer is unable to pay the monthly energy bill, they should call O&R at 1-877-434-4100.