National Grid wants to raise rates for its customers in upstate New York, a request that comes at a particularly difficult time for low-income residents.
The company is proposing a rate hike of 21.8 percent for electricity delivery and 24.8 percent for gas delivery. That would result in about a 14 percent increase, or $11 more per month, on the bill of a typical electricity customer using 600 kilowatt hours. For natural gas customers, it would be about a 15 percent increase -- or $10 more per month -- on the bill of a typical customer using 77 therms.
Company Spokesperson Virginia Limmiatis says the new rates are needed to finance a $2.7 billion investment in electricity and gas infrastructure, renewable energy, grid modernization and nearly 300 new employees.
"It's something that has something for everyone in terms of helping to move the dial on where we want to be as a utility provider," Limmiatis said.
Some of the rate increases will be used to support lower-income customers, but if approved the price increase would come at a time when National Grid has terminated a record number of customers for lack of payment. It's one of the reasons Richard Berkley with the Public Utility Law Project (PULP), a nonprofit public interest law firm, opposes the proposal.
"There are large sections of the state that still have not recovered from the Great Recession and the housing bust and those households have a problem with affording their daily expenses," Berkley said. "There should be no households in New York that have to choose between medicine for their children and paying their bills and unfortunately, all across the state there are problems with affordability."
Limmiatis says the company's goal is to spread out the hike over three-year period to ease the burden.
"The increase if we do get approval for a multi-year plan, those costs would actually be half so in other words that would help to mitigate the increase," Limmiatis said.
The New York State Public Service Commission will ultimately decide on how much rates will rise and over what period of time.