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Kilmartin urges R.I. regulators to consider alternatives before approving higher electric rates
Published on: Nov 25, 2014

Providence Journal - Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin has asked the state Public Utilities Commission to explore all alternatives before considering approval of new electric rates proposed by National Grid that would raise typical residential bills by nearly 24 percent this winter

“Annual increases in electric rates should not be the ‘new normal,’ as some have described it,” Kilmartin said in a statement. “The PUC should first look at all possible alternatives and solutions before agreeing to raise rates one cent.”

The proposed rate increase is driven by the price of natural gas, which is expected to spike this winter — as it has in the past three winters — because of constraints on the two major pipelines that supply New England. Gas is a major heating fuel for the region and over the past decade has also become the main fuel for electric generators.

The rate increase would affect National Grid’s 486,000 electric customers in Rhode Island and would be in place for the six-month period from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2015. Under state regulations, National Grid sets rates twice a year. Kilmartin, however, has asked the PUC to recover the costs of the pending increase in gas prices over a longer period — 12 months — to spread out the bill impact.

Kilmartin’s concerns were conveyed in a letter to the PUC that was delivered Tuesday afternoon.

Questions about National Grid’s proposal have been raised by other elected officials. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said last week that the higher electric rates put Rhode Island at an economic disadvantage compared to other states. He said that New England needs to expand the capacities of the pipelines that bring natural gas to the region.

Rhode Island is not alone in feeling the effects of the pipeline constraints. In Massachusetts, National Grid customers are seeing a 37 percent increase in their bills while NStar has proposed a 29 percent increase. In New Hampshire, bills for Liberty Utilities customers will go up 50 percent.