National Grid proposes rate increases for RI customers

National Grid announced Monday, Nov. 27, 2017, that it is proposing a rate increase for electric and gas customers in Rhode Island. (WJAR)

National Grid announced on Monday that it is proposing a rate increase for electric and natural gas customers in Rhode Island.

Customers like the Hallenbeck's in Warwick said they don't like the idea of paying more.

"For some people, it’s going to be very, very tough, no question about it," Ted Hallenbeck said.

The utility company has filed the proposal with Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission. Under it, residential electricity customers would see a monthly bill increase of 6 percent, which would cost the average customer about $6 more a month. Commercial and industrial electricity customers’ bill would range from a 3 to 9 percent increase, depending on customer size and usage per month, under the proposal.

Gas customers would see a hike of about 5 percent hike, amounting to about $65 more per month, while commercial and industrial customers’ annual bill impact would range from 1 to 6 percent.

“If approved, the revised rates would allow the company to continue to improve service quality, deliver the safety and reliability our customers rely on, and pursue new initiatives focused on renewable energy, modernizing the grid, and helping income-eligible customers,” National Grid noted in a press release, adding that “the rate increase would include $41.3 million to support operations and new initiatives in National Grid’s electric business in Rhode Island.”

In Monday's exclusive "Connect to the Capitol" segment, Gov. Gina Raimondo told NBC 10 News that she wants to see the company's books.

"And see if this is really necessary and can we afford it," Raimondo said.

In a statement, she noted that tens of thousands of people in Rhode Island lost power in October, with some going without electricity for nearly a week.

“Now, they are asking the state to approve a 15 percent rate increase,” Raimondo said. “Rhode Island families and small business owners, especially manufacturing businesses, are already challenged by high energy costs. The Public Utility Commission needs to open up National Grid's books and stand up for Rhode Island ratepayers."

Tim Horan, president and COO of National Grid in Rhode Island, said the electricity portion of the increase request is directly related to National Grid’s delivery: the cost of the wires, poles, crews, trucks, tree trimming and other maintenance, including the expense of making the power grid resistant to storm damage.

Horan said the proposal "will allow us to continue delivering energy to them in the safe, reliable, and efficient way customers deserve. It also reflects the shared goals we have with the State of Rhode Island in promoting more renewable forms of energy, providing greater assistance to income-eligible customers, and modernizing the State’s energy network."

Customers like Kevin Browning said the proposed increase doesn't bother him.

"As long as it fits within my budget," he said. "Everybody has a budget that they have to work within."

The proposal still needs to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission. That process could take almost a year.

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