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Public Utilities Commission okays increased Concord Steam rates

Concord Steam has received approval to increase its rates by nearly 19 percent.

The new rates were approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission last week. Concord Steam President Peter Bloomfield said there hadn’t been a “significant increase for about five years,” as he hoped to already have a new plant open in the South End.

“We couldn’t afford to run anymore without an increase in rates,” he said. “We’re still looking at the new project. That’s still a very definite thing that we’re working hard on.”

The new rates reflect a temporary rate increase that was approved last fall, Bloomfield said. The company requested a 21 percent rate increase in September, but later reduced that request to about 12 percent. Bloomfield said at the time that mild winters and rising fuel and wood costs had created a strain on the company.

Rates will increase 18.15 percent for small-meter customers, 18.89 percent for medium-meter customers and 18.74 percent for large-meter customers, according to the order issued last week.

Meanwhile, the company is still working to secure financing for a new wood-burning plant in the South End.

The new plant was initially projected to reduce the cost of steam heat by about 40 percent, but those estimates changed last year to a 20 percent reduction in rates.

The company is now deciding whether to move forward with the long-delayed plant off South Main Street or improve infrastructure at its existing facility on the New Hampshire Hospital campus. Bloomfield said he hopes to have a decision by the end of this week.

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