Good news! It seems that we can expect to see lower electricity bills, and perhaps lower gas bills, imminently here in the Pioneer Valley. I must say, I still hear the voice of my own parent's resonating in my ears with demands to "turn of the lights when you leave a room!". I have, of course, carried on the same tradition with my own children (harping on them to turn off lights/power when not in use, that is). Someday, I'm hoping this they will do so without even thinking about it (and demand the same of their own offspring). Meanwhile, Northampton area residents who are still reeling from the sticker shock of extremely high electricity bills this winter, can now breathe a sigh of relief -- and hopefully still remember to turn off anything that requires electricity when they aren't using it. Read on for the details about lower electricity rates from the Daily Hampshire Gazette article.
National Grid to lower rates May 1
A National Grid crew member works to restore power on lines in Revere, Mass. Monday, July 28, 2014, after a tornado touched down. Revere Deputy Fire Chief Mike Viviano says the fire department in that coastal city has received dozens of calls reporting partial building and roof collapses, and downed trees and power lines. Viviano says there are no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
By GENA MANGIARATTI
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
(Published in print: Wednesday, March 25, 2015)
Valley home and business owners can expect some relief from high electric bills this spring.
On Monday, National Grid announced that, pending Department of Public Utilities approval, the cost of power is expected to drop from the current rate of more than 16 cents per kilowatt-hour to just above 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, a more than 40 percent decrease, starting May 1. With the cost of delivering the power remaining the same, this means that typical basic service customers using 500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month will see a decrease of $32, or 26 percent, on their overall bills.
National Grid spokeswoman Danielle Williamson explained that energy costs typically go down in the summer since there is less demand for natural gas than in the winter, when wholesale costs go up due to pipeline constraints.
“It’s not a shortage of natural gas that makes the price higher. It’s pipeline capacity constrictions,” she said Tuesday. “There’s enough natural gas, but in New England we don’t have enough pipelines to get into the area.”
Meanwhile, natural gas customers can also anticipate lower bills this spring. Customers of Boston Gas and Colonial Gas, affiliates of National Grid, can expect to see their bills drop by approximately 30 and 25 percent respectively, according to Williamson.
National Grid has almost 1.3 million residential and business electric customers in Massachusetts and serves several Hampshire County communities, including Northampton, Belchertown, Granby, Williamsburg and Goshen. The news of lower rates was welcomed by residents and business owners in these communities.
Patricia Shaughnessy, who lives in Florence and is director of the Northampton Senior Center, called the news encouraging both as a city resident and professionally.
“I work with a population who in many regards cannot afford rate increases for anything,” she said. “So I think it will be a great experience to have their bills going down.”
Customers of Eversource, the utility that formerly operated in this area as the Western Massachusetts Electric Co., will wait another month or so to learn whether their rates will also drop.
Unlike National Grid, Eversource operates on a January-through-July schedule with the Department of Public Utilities. In the next month, the company will put out a request for proposals from wholesale electricity suppliers, then submit the lowest bid received for state approval. Eversource does not generate power.
Priscilla Ress, an Eversource spokeswoman, said the new National Grid rates hold out hope for consumer rate relief.
“This is a very good sign for what’s happening in the electricity market,” she said.
The wholesale market has been shifting, she noted, now that customers are seeking alternative suppliers in the face of rising rates. Ress noted that over 90 percent of Eversource customers were previously signed up for the basic rate, but that percentage has fallen since rates jumped by roughly 29 percent Jan. 1.
“It’s a very volatile market. That’s why we hesitate to predict how the rates will go.”
Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.