RI lawmaker wants to change rules on how utilities can raise rates

Rep. Robert Lancia National Grid

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — October 1 marks the first day of higher electricity rates charged by National Grid and approved this summer by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission. But Rep. Robert Lancia, R-Cranston, wants to change the way rate increases are granted to public utilities, he said Monday at a news conference outside National Grid’s offices in Providence.

National Grid has said the typical residential customer will see their electricity bill go up by $19 a month. That is less than the utility had originally asked to raise rates; they were able to lower the proposed increase thanks to the new federal tax law.

Lancia plans to take the proposal to the General Assembly in January with a new bill. He takes issue with the system of the three-person PUC, appointed by the governor to high-paying positions. He wants the General Assembly to have final approval of rate increases.

Representatives from the George Wiley Center and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, local advocates for low-income Rhode Islanders, also pointed out that the rate increases will hurt those in greatest need.

Earlier this year, National Grid officials said the rate increase would be due to higher electricity supply prices, which in turn were tied to the closure of power plants and the increase in demand that usually happens in winter months.

The higher rate will be in effect through March 31, 2019.

According to a listing of rates on the PUC’s website, the new increased residential rate – 10.990 cents per kilowatt-hour – is the highest rate charged since January 2015, when the rate was 10.728 cents per kilowatt-hour.

In a statement Monday, National Grid spokesperson Ted Kresse responded to Lancia’s claims, calling the legislator “misinformed.”

“On August 27, the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (RIPUC) held a hearing to review the upcoming winter rates for Standard Offer Service (SOS) rates,” he said. “These rates represent the cost of electricity supply, which we purchase on behalf of our customers and pass through without profit. At the end of the hearing, the Commission determined the new rate for residential customers will be 10.990 cents per kilowatt hour, up from the current price of 8.486 cents per kilowatt hour.  As local media reported, the new price will result in a typical residential customer seeing an increase of 13 percent or $13.04 on their total monthly bill for the same amount of electricity used.”

“Much of this increase is due to the announcement of several older generation plants going offline,” Kresse continued. “While new resources are stepping up to meet future demand, most utilities and their customers across the region are still feeling the impact.”

Kresse said National Grid is open to sitting down with Rep. Lancia to further discuss the matter.

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