PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Goodbye, National Grid.
Rhode Island’s largest utility company announced Wednesday it has officially finalized the $3.8 billion sale of its gas and electric operations — also known as The Narragansett Electric Co. — to PPL Corp., an energy company based in Pennsylvania. PPL is also assuming $1.5 billion in debt from National Grid.
National Grid’s 780,000 Rhode Island customers can expect to start getting bills from the new company — which PPL will operate locally as “Rhode Island Energy” — beginning in early June, according to a spokesperson.
“National Grid has taken enormous pride in being part of the Rhode Island community,” National Grid CEO John Pettigrew said in a statement.
The deal signals the end of an era for National Grid PLC, the London-based energy company that stormed onto the Rhode Island scene when it bought the parent of Narragansett Electric in 2000. The purchase came about four years after Rhode Island decided to deregulate its electricity market, which proponents at the time argued would bring more competition and help drive down prices.
But National Grid quickly started acquiring most of the state’s local utility companies, along with New England Gas Co. in 2006 — effectively creating a monopoly in the local energy market. Now, it’s handing the torch off to PPL.
“We are pleased to welcome the Rhode Island Energy team into the PPL family of companies, and we consider it an absolute privilege to serve the energy needs of Rhode Islanders,” PPL president and CEO Vincent Sorgi said in a statement.
PPL executives were expected to meet Wednesday at the State House with top state officials, including Gov. Dan McKee, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey, and then address reporters.
Pennsylvania-based PPL, which provides electricity and gas services to 3.5 million U.S. customers, is currently going through its own effort to try and grow its domestic operations. Last year, the company sold its United Kingdom utility business to National Grid.
The U.K. sale was finalized last June, but the Rhode Island transaction didn’t get the green light until this week.
The R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, a state regulatory body, initially approved the sale earlier this year after a yearlong review. But the deal was stalled after R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha challenged the approval, arguing the regulators didn’t follow the law and the terms of the deal made it unclear whether it would result in higher utility bills for ratepayers.
This week, Neronha announced he’d settled that legal challenge, saying the energy companies had agreed to roughly $200 million in concessions. Those include offering additional ratepayer relief, creating a better plan for storm response and helping the state achieve its carbon emission-cutting goals.
(Story continues below the video.)
The companies reached a similar agreement earlier this year with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who argued the Rhode Island transaction could have an adverse affect on Massachusetts ratepayers — where National Grid also has operations — by reducing its local infrastructure.
“The time to address Rhode Island’s energy delivery system and climate future is now, in this context, not elsewhere and not later,” Neronha said. “Wherever and whenever necessary, this office will continue to fight for Rhode Islanders. Because Rhode Islanders deserve no less.”
National Grid isn’t disappearing from Rhode Island altogether. The London-based company still owns a liquefied natural gas facility at Fields Point in Providence, which it operates under a separate entity called National Grid LNG LLC. The deal with PPL did not include the LNG facility.
But the days when Rhode Islanders see National Grid utility trucks dotting local streets are rapidly nearing an end.
“It has been a privilege to serve Rhode Island and I offer my heartfelt thanks to the many colleagues who have kept the lights on and gas flowing for our customers and communities every day,” Pettigrew said.