In late April 2017, upstate electric and gas utility corporation, National Grid, filed for a substantial customer rate increase with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC). The company is seeking to raise rates for electric customers in WNY by an average of $8.93 per month. For its combined electric and gas customers in cities like Syracuse and Albany, an average monthly utility bill would increase by $17.63. If approved by the PSC, the higher rates would take effect April 1, 2018. According to National Grid, the rate hike will generate revenue to help support $2.7 billion of new investment in electric and gas infrastructure owned by the company, as well as 280 new jobs, over the next three years. In addition, the company is seeking an increase in its guaranteed rate of return to shareholders of 9.79%, or more, pending approval of a multi-year rate increase by the PSC.
National Grid’s request to the PSC comes in the midst of a widespread energy affordability crisis across its upstate service territory. Over each of the past two years, National Grid has terminated service to 66,000 households due to non-payment. In June 2017 alone, 10,000 customers had their service shut off by the company. Currently, over 200,000 customers are at least 60 days late with their bill payments to National Grid. As part of the rate filing the company is demanding additional financial rewards, so-called “earnings adjustment mechanisms,” to decrease its high rate of service termination. Contributing to the affordability crisis is National Grid’s fixed customer charge of $17 per month, among the highest charges in the country and more than three times what the company charges customers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. A high fixed customer charge penalizes customers who seek to save money on their utility bills by taking actions to reduce their energy consumption.
Area residents and members of the Crossroads Collective, a local grassroots coalition advocating for a just transition from the fossil fuel economy, structural racism, and corporate control by the 1%, will make a live public service announcement to local media on Wednesday, July 26th at 11:00am EST at 271 Grant Street, Buffalo NY 14213.
The announcement will be to alert National Grid customers across the region to the issues at stake in the rate case from the perspective of fellow customers fearful of the adverse impact a rate hike would have on household energy burdens and community economic stability.
The upcoming public statement hearings scheduled for August 1st in downtown Buffalo at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Gallery Conference Room, 1 Lafayette Square.