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National Grid prices going up

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York Public Service Commission adopted a joint proposal by department staff, National Grid, and other parties.

According to the commission, the decision establishes three-year electric and gas rate plans that limit the overall revenue increases in the first year to only $43 million or 1.7 percent for electric customers, and only $13 million or 2.4 percent for natural gas customers.

Under the new rate plan, a typical residential customer using 600kWh of electricity month would see a typical bill increase of $2.22 or 2.9 percent in the first year starting in April 2018, $3.03 or 3.8 percent in the second year starting in April 2019, and $3.25 or 3.9 percent in the third year starting in April 2020.

A typical residential customer using 77 therms of gas per month would see a total monthly bill increase of $1.20 or 1.7 percent in the first year, $3.10 or 4.5 percent in the second year, and $3.18 or 4.4 percent in the third year.

The commission says a typical low-income electric customer will see a bill reduction of up to 55 percent.

National Grid customers are not happy about the changes.

Lucy Topalian says it makes her want to pull her hair out.

“It is definitely high,” she says.

Adam Gorman says he is known to let out a few gasps when he opens his National Grid bill.

“It is one of those things, I wish it was cheaper, but you know sadly it’s the way of the world,” says Gorman.

National Grid Spokesman Steve Brady says the approved plan should help ease the burden for customers.

“Rather than getting sticker-shock of a very, very large one-year increase, it spreads it out over three years,” says Brady. “It also gives customers some price assurance.”

Topalian isn’t so sure.

“$3 is not much, but that goes up $3, another bill goes up $3,” she says.

But customers say they know it’s just something they have to deal with.

“You’ve got to keep the lights on. You’ve got to keep the heat going,” says Bob Kirchner. “So it’s a fact of life.”

Keep in mind that the hikes are only to pay National Grid as your provider. If your bill goes up more than expected, it may be because you’re using more electricity or gas in your home.

Details of the Commission’s decision include:

  • Low-Income Discount Program: The Commission adopted funding for an energy affordability program providing discounts to qualifying customers in accordance with the Commission’s nation-leading framework for the design of low-income programs. This decision implements a policy which seeks to limit energy costs to no more than 6 percent of household income for the approximately 2.3 million low-income households in New York. Beginning next winter, National Grid is expected to have 160,000 electric low-income customers and 60,000 low-income gas customers. This program will result in substantial bill reductions (as much as 55 percent) for most low-income households.

  • Capital Investment: The Commission will allow National Grid to invest $2.5 billion over three years to reinforce and modernize its electric transmission and distribution system, including investments to address the increased frequency and severity of storms. Additionally, the Commission directed the company to seek out non-wires alternatives that allow it to provide safe and reliable service at a lower cost than traditional infrastructure investments.

  • Service Quality Assurance Program: The Commission adopted customer service metric updates based on recent performance and brings the company in line with metrics for other investor-owned utilities in New York.

  • Terminations and Uncollectibles Incentive: The Commission adopted the implementation of a mechanism that incents the company to reduce both the number of terminations and the aggregate amount of uncollectibles attributable to residential customer accounts.

  • Collections Agreements: The Commission adopted refinements to the company’s collections practices, including: providing for electronic deferred payment agreements (DPAs); enhanced customer service messaging to ensure that customers know their options if they are behind on their utility bills; updated training materials; and ensuring customers are offered written confirmation of any non-DPA collection arrangements.

  • Street Lighting: The Commission adopted a number of provisions that will facilitate the upgrading of street lights throughout National Grid’s upstate service territory to energy efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs). For municipalities that opt into the program, the company will replace company-owned failed roadway luminaires with LED luminaires. The company will also sell its street lighting assets to municipalities who wish to purchase them at the lowest price possible.

  • Energy Efficiency: The Commission adopted increasing the targets for the company’s energy-efficiency program by 40 percent while increasing program funding by only 20 percent, thus reflecting the cost-effective nature of National Grid’s energy-efficiency programs.

  • Gas Safety Performance Metrics: The Commission adopted updates to existing metrics based on recent performance, in line with metrics for other investor-owned utilities in New York State. The areas of performance measured are leak-prone pipe removal; leak management; damage prevention; emergency response; and gas safety regulations performance.

  • Gas Safety Enhancements: The Commission approved using shareholder funds to enhance gas safety through six programs that include the distribution of residential methane detectors, initiatives aimed at pipeline damage prevention, and enhanced first responder training programs. The company will invest about $138 million to replace 150 miles of leak-prone pipe over the terms of the rate plan.

National Grid initially requested a 13 percent increase in electricity rates and 14 percent in natural gas rates.

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