Tell National Grid: No Rate Hikes for Dirty Energy Investments in NY

People and Planet over Profits – Public Hearings Start this Week

National Grid wants to raise electricity and gas rates in upstate New York, starting next year. If the request is granted, the average residential customer’s bill would go up by $17.63. (Customers who receive electricity service only from National Grid would see their bills rise by $8.93.) The rate hike will help pay for a $2.7 billion investment into the electricity and gas infrastructure owned by the company, to pay workers and executives, to carry out all of the utility’s activities including customer service, and to earn profit for its investors.

It’s Your Money, You Can Have a Say
National Grid is a regulated monopoly, so it cannot simply set its own prices. Instead, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) will determine whether the company’s request for a rate hike is reasonable. The PSC will make this decision as part of a rate case that is happening right now. In the rate case, the company has filed a proposal for the rate increases and an explanation for how it will spend the money it receives from customers. Organizations and individuals have the right to intervene in this case and challenge the company’s plans.

The National Grid rate case is about more than just the cost of energy. It’s also about what infrastructure and programs the utility company will invest our money in over the next several years. The outcome of this case will have implications for energy affordability as well as air and water pollution, economic development, and climate change. Rate cases offer a rare opportunity for the utility’s customers to comment on these important issues.

Join Us at a Public Hearing
At a time when tens of thousands of customers already cannot pay their bills and the future of our ecosystems depends on reducing greenhouse gases, we cannot afford to allow this rate hike to go forward. We will band together to fight for affordable bills and investments in our clean energy future, not fossil fuel infrastructure.

Join us at an upcoming public hearing to make your voice heard.

Schenectady – County Community College

Tuesday, July 25, 2017, 1:00 p.m.
Stockade 101, 78 Washington Avenue
Schenectady, NY 12305

Troy – Hilton Garden Inn
Tuesday, July 25, 2017, 6:00 p.m.
Sage II Conference Room, 235 Hoosick Street
Troy, NY 12180

Lake Placid – Olympic Conference Center
Thursday, July 27, 2017, 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
2608 Main Street, Lake Placid, NY 12946

Syracuse – Nottingham High School
Monday, July 31, 2017, 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
3100 East Genesee Street, Syracuse, NY 13224

Buffalo & Erie County Public Library
Tuesday, August 1, 2017, 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Gallery Conference Room, 1 Lafayette Square
Buffalo, NY 14203

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 

Affordability
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.

Gas Expansion
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.

Efficiency
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.

Tell National Grid: No Rate Hikes for Dirty Energy Investments in NY posted first on Green Energy Times

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