PUC to vote on electric rate hikes, consumers protest

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) –The Rhode Island State Public Utilities Commission plans to vote on whether or not residents will see a rate increase on their electric bills, effective Jan. 2015.

Officials met at 10 a.m. on Tuesday to vote on National Grid’s request.

If approved, the monthly bill for a typical household in Rhode Island would increase from $88 to $109.

A week ago, consumers had a heated discussion at a public forum expressing their frustration. And Tuesday, the public made signs to protest the proposed plan.

“It’s an insult to rate payers to suggest – as was reported in Friday’s Providence Journal – that rate relief would amount to spreading out these much higher charges over a longer period of time,” said customer Cathy Orloff. “One might expect such an idea from a payday loan outfit, but not from a body that’s supposed to work for the best interest of consumers.”

National Grid says as long as they’ve followed all the right procedures, the Public Utilities Commission should sign off on the plan.

They say the rate hike stems from the higher demand of natural gas, as more power plants are burning natural gas for electricity. Residential, commercial, and industrial National Grid customers will all see similar increases.

“On the coldest days of the year, there is tremendous demand for natural gas,” said National Grid spokesperson David Graves. “If there is not enough to meet all demand, the generators either have to switch to another fuel, oil, which is much more expensive, or buy gas on the spot market, which is also much more expensive, or they shut down completely. That drives up the price of electricity.”

Prior to the meeting, The George Wiley Center which works to alleviate problems associated with poverty, is rallying opponents to the rate hike outside the Public Utilities Commission’s office on 89 Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick.

The meeting is also open to the public, however there will be no open discussion from residents.

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