|See all the rate case documents and file written comments at this link. You can also join as a formal intervenor in the case, which gives you the right to ask discovery questions of the company, file expert testimony, cross examine witnesses, and negotiate with the company over the outcome of the case. For updates to this document and more information, visit the Alliance for a Green Economy website.
National Grid Rate Case Facts and Talking Points
Over 200,000 customers are at least 60 days behind on their bill payments to National Grid, and in June almost 10,000 customers were shut off by the company for non-payment. As this energy affordability crisis continues to grip our communities, the requested rate hike will make it even more difficult for customers to afford their bills.
Don’t raise the rates. The rate plan needs to be scrutinized and all waste needs to be eliminated (including exorbitant salaries for executives). National Grid has an incentive to spend money on infrastructure and to sell more energy because the company earns a profit on its investments. The company’s rate plan includes many programs and investments that might not be worth it for the customers but will help the company’s bottom line.
Reduce the fixed customer fees. Our energy bills have some charges that are fixed regardless of how much energy we use and some charges that depend on the amount of energy consumed. National Grid’s fixed charge for electricity is $17/month, Regardless of how little energy is used by the customer, the fixed charge never decreases, meaning that customers who use the lowest amounts of electricity end up subsidizing those who use the most. This regressive rate structure disproportionately hurts low-income consumers, who generally use less energy. In other states National Grid charges a fixed fee of approximately $5. Lowering the fixed fees would reduce bills for most customers, even if the costs for each unit of energy consumed is raised to compensate for the utility’s lost revenue. Lowering the fixed fees creates a more progressive rate structure, gives customers more control over their bills, and makes energy efficiency and solar energy investments more cost effective. (Read more about the fixed charges and solutions here.)
Expand energy affordability programs. In 2015, consumers won a landmark energy affordability policy in New York, which requires utility companies to expand access to discounts and to increase the amount discounted for the most vulnerable customers. Accordingly, National Grid’s rate plan includes an increase of $50 million for low-income discounts and an expansion of eligibility to an additional 55,000 customers. However, the requested rate hike will cancel out most of the affordability gains created by this program.
The use of natural gas and other fossil fuels for heating buildings in New York accounts for a large portion of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions from energy (second-only to transportation). To achieve New York’s climate goal of 40% greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2030, we must dramatically decrease in the use of fossil fuels for heating buildings. Yet, National Grid is planning to expand the number of gas customers and to invest millions of dollars in repairing, reinforcing, and expanding gas pipelines, rather than planning to move customers to renewable-ready geothermal and air-source heat pumps. (For more information about these technologies, visit www.RenewableHeatNow.org). It’s time to end investments in gas infrastructure and go all in on heat pump technologies. Aside from fixing leaking pipes that pose a danger to the public and the environment, the utility should put all of its home heating investments into transitioning to heat pumps. This requires the utility to rethink its gas business and plan for a decarbonized future. The time is now to start this process.
Despite the fact that energy efficiency is the lowest cost way to address greenhouse gas emissions and energy affordability, the New York Public Service Commission is not currently requiring utilities to meet the gold standard for efficiency savings. Leading states are achieving 3% electricity efficiency savings each year, while in New York, the average has been just over 1%. This rate case is an opportunity to require that National Grid achieve high levels of energy efficiency through utility rebates and other programs that encourage and incentivize efficient light bulbs, efficiency appliances, weatherization, and energy conservation.