MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The U.S. Energy Information Administration is forecasting a 7.5% increase in electricity prices from last year.

While the highest price increases are expected to impact Northeastern states most, Alabamians will still likely feel the effects on their power bills.

Alabama Power in August raised rates by about $6 a month for residential users to keep up with fuel costs. Spokesman Anthony Cook says other increases are possible.

“Watching the market, watching where everything is moving, that looks like something that could potentially happen in the near future, but I can’t speak to that directly right now,” Cook said.

To keep costs down this winter, Cook recommends leaving your thermostat at 68 degrees, opening blinds to let light and heat in, weatherizing windows and doors, and ensuring your garage door is sealed shut.

He also says you can sign up for budget billing, which allows you to pay an average monthly cost based on annual usage to avoid spikes during high usage months.

Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh says those rate increases are simply for companies to stay afloat.

“The fuel costs had gotten so egregious that it had to be adjusted in June and still consumers right now are $450 million behind or in debt to Alabama Power Company for fuel. This has nothing to do with operations, this is truly the fuel cost of producing electricity,” Cavanaugh said.

She says much of this stems from national policy that doesn’t focus enough on energy independence.

“We’ve got to get growing again, and the way we do that is by being energy independent, and we can do it, but we’ve got to remember that policy in the White House makes a difference,” Cavanaugh said.

For those who do need help with bills, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs administers the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.

LIHEAP users typically receive about a month’s worth of energy bills paid, depending on household size, income and other factors, according to ADECA’s Energy Division Chief Jennifer Lee.

“There’s always a great need, especially when we enter our winter months. But now with the rising cost of groceries and gas and that sort of thing, we do anticipate that there will be an increase in the need.”

For assistance through LIHEAP you can apply now through May 31 at any of the 18 community action agencies throughout the state.

To find which one is near you and if you qualify, head to Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – ADECA (alabama.gov) for more information.