As “outrageous” energy bills crush residents’ wallets this winter, State House legislators are urging the Department of Public Utilities to “take immediate action” about the skyrocketing utility costs and reverse the rate hikes.
Some Bay Staters’ electric bills have spiked by several hundred dollars since the winter started. State officials had warned about this significant jump months ago, predicting that the cost of heating would surge by a whopping 54.6% for electric customers and 28.6% for natural gas.
Now that the winter energy bills have landed on residents’ kitchen tables, Massachusetts lawmakers are again pleading with the Department of Public Utilities to do something about it. In a letter to DPU Chair Matthew Nelson about the energy rate increases, the legislators noted that fuel prices have dropped since DPU approved the rate increases.
“We are requesting that the DPU take immediate action to reassess the recently granted rate increases,” the State House lawmakers recently wrote to Nelson, later adding, “It is the DPU’s duty to protect our citizens from unfair and deeply damaging prices.
“Several winter months remain, and it is untenable for our residents and businesses to continue to pay these outrageous and unfair prices,” the legislators wrote.
Utility providers have largely blamed global factors such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, and inflation for the increased energy costs.
A DPU spokesperson said the state agency is reviewing the legislators’ letter and will follow up with the representatives.
“While natural gas supply rates can change over the course of the winter period because the cost of gas is established by market prices, electricity supply rates are established by contract based on a competitive solicitation, and these prices remain fixed over the term of the contract,” the DPU spokesperson said in a statement.
Those contracts are in place for six months.
In preparation for the winter season, DPU met with utility companies and told them to promote and allow residential customers to enroll in budget billing programs, guide customers who have difficulty paying their bills toward appropriate assistance programs, along with other steps.
Since September, some 60,000 National Grid customers have enrolled in its discount program, allowing eligible customers to save 25% to 32% on their utility bills. An additional 12,000 customers have signed up for bill management programs.
“We’re working with our customers to help them reduce their energy use and save money, sign up for payment plans and various billing options and discount rates, and secure all available energy assistance,” a National Grid spokesperson said.
Eversource also has assistance programs for customers.
“We know how challenging increased energy costs are for our customers who are already frustrated with rising prices for other basic, daily needs,” an Eversource spokesperson said. “While we have no control over the cost of energy, we’re here to work with our customers one-on-one on ways to reduce their energy usage and connect them with assistance programs, flexible payment plans or other resources to help them manage their monthly bill.”