Massachusetts electricity customers could be in for a steep increase in their winter bills, National Grid warned Wednesday.
The utility company estimated the typical residential electric customer will see a 64% increase in their monthly bill starting Nov. 1, jumping from $179 last winter to $293 this year.
The price hike is due to the “significantly higher” cost of the natural gas used to generate electricity, according to National Grid. The company pointed to global conflict, inflation, and high demand as some of the factors driving up natural gas prices.
Natural gas customers are also looking at seasonal rate adjustments. National Grid said it has a pending proposal with the Department of Public Utilities that would raise the average Boston Gas residential customer’s monthly bill by $50, or 22%, and the average Colonial Gas residential customer’s bill by $47 — a 24% increase.
Eversource similarly announced an increase in its proposed gas rates, also scheduled to take effect Nov. 1. Residential customers in the former NSTAR Gas area are looking at an increase of $86, or about 38%, and customers in the former Columbia Gas area will see an increase of $61, or about 25%.
“We know winter isn’t far away, so we’re encouraging and making it easier for our customers to take action now and letting them know that we are here to help,” Helen Burt, National Grid’s chief customer officer, said in Wednesday’s release.
To that end, the company launched the Winter Customer Savings Initiative, with a goal of helping customers reduce their energy use and save money, better manage their bills, and secure available energy assistance, according to the release.
“We want to do everything we can to help our customers manage through the months ahead through our Winter Customer Savings Initiative, while maintaining high levels of service to meet their energy needs this winter season,” Burt said.
Time for a change?
“People are struggling to make ends meet & this is going to make the colder months tough,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey tweeted Wednesday. “We’re doing everything we can to get residents relief and we need long term solutions so consumers never see rates like these again.”
In a statement, Healey spokeswoman Chloe Gotsis said the AG’s office is exploring all possible options to alleviate the burden.
For example, Healey’s office noted that it saved customers more than $400 million by challenging National Grid’s proposed distribution rates in 2018. The company’s next distribution rate case doesn’t come before the Department of Public Utilities until next year, after Healey — the Democratic nominee for governor — leaves office.
“National Grid’s rate hike will be devastating for hundreds of thousands of customers in Massachusetts who simply cannot afford it,” Gotsis said. “We urge the DPU to find ways to lessen the impact on energy bills and find long term solutions to prevent customers from seeing rates like these ever again.”
Burt also suggested it may be time for a change.
“National Grid buys electricity on behalf of its customers from the wholesale power market through a regulatory approved process established 20 years ago,” she said. “That process has served customers well over the years and provides flexibility for unforeseen events, like limited supplier response to solicitations. But things have fundamentally changed.”
In today’s sustained, high market price environment, it’s challenging to maintain affordable prices, Burt said.
“Given that, we think it’s a good time to work with our regulators and other stakeholders to review the process and electricity supply dynamics in the region, with an eye toward reducing price volatility and maintaining a secure, reliable and resilient energy system for the future,” she said.
On its website, National Grid offers a number of energy saving tips, including:
- Using smart power strips to control the amount of energy electronics use, or unplugging electronics and chargers not in use;
- Setting refrigerator temperatures to 38°F;
- Keeping furniture away from air vents, as blocked vents can require up to 25% more energy to distribute air;
- Using programmable thermostats to adjust heating and cooling in unoccupied rooms;
- And checking insulation on ceilings, roofs, exterior walls, and wall cavities.
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